February is traditionally the time when we think about affairs of the heart. But with the cold weather still upon us, it is also the month where we desperately need to pump out the message that heart disease kills.
The North West is the heart attack capital of England. And as our hearts work harder to keep us warm, winter is the worst time for cardiac arrests. In fact, health bosses are so worried about the problem that one of the central pillars of the recent health devolution plan for Greater Manchester, was to make sure there are 600 fewer deaths from heart disease by 2021.
The majority of heart and circulatory problems including thrombosis and strokes, are actually highly preventable – by changing diets and lifestyle and introducing better facilities and treatment that everyone can administer!
Our heart is such a vital organ because it pumps blood to the rest of the body. Problems occur when the blood supply to the heart gets blocked, because the arteries leading to it are clogged with fatty deposits. This can cause a condition called angina and the main symptoms of coronary heart disease are heart attacks and strokes.
These fatty deposits are caused by what we eat and drink (so it is wise to check your cholesterol), lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure, as well as other conditions including diabetes. Smoking is one of the greatest contributors to heart disease and should be stamped out immediately.
Coronary heart disease cannot be cured but medication and sometimes surgery can help. But it you really want to avoid heartache and heartbreak, then you should examine your diet and become more active. Studies consistently find that light-to-moderate exercise benefits people with or without existing heart disease – though it is wise to consult your GP before beginning a workout programme.
Recognising a heart attack can be vital in preventing death. Typically they are marked by chest pain, dizziness, sweating, coughing and wheezing. You must seek emergency support if you see or experience any of these symptoms.
Whilst defibrillators are more present than ever before, I have written to the Prime Minister to call for more funding to be made available for this life-saving equipment to be staged in all public places. I have also urged her to make CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training compulsory in schools. In Norway, where all children learn CPR, up to a quarter of people survive a cardiac arrest. That compares to just one in ten in Britain.
It may sound obvious, but if you have a defibrillator – you need to learn how to use it properly. Organisations such as the St John’s Ambulance Service run first aid courses which encompass CPR, so why not take a few minutes to potentially learn to save a life? The British Red Cross has produced a short video on how to perform CPR on adults at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGznNGtT4xw
Approximately one in four men and one in five women in the UK die from heart disease each year. Roughly a third of those deaths occur to people under the age of 75.
Whether it is by quitting smoking, getting that free over 40’s health check at your local surgery or walking that short journey instead of taking the car, show your heart you love it this February, by giving it a little tender, loving care.