1. Health protectors
2. Nine ways to prevent heart diseases
3. Emergency Actions if heart attack...
[Time to read: 9 mins]
1. Health protectors
1.1 Total cholesterol level less than or equal to 5 mmol /L. Half of all adults in England have too high cholesterol . Reducing LDL cholesterol by 1 mmol /L for 5 years lowers your risks of heart diseases & strokes by 1 in 4 (25%) [Lancet, Dec. 2017].
1.2. Blood pressure less than 130/80 mm Hg. 7 million UK people are unaware they have high blood pressure [BHF, 2020]. Yet it affects 1 in every 4 adults. It can lead you to heart diseases, strokes, dementia  and kidney diseases .
1.3. Do not get diabetes; here is how to prevent diabetes if at risk.
1.4. If you smoke, STOP Use a free NHS local stop smoking service. Public Health England guidance. Smoking one cigarette a day has a risk of heart disease and stroke, half that for people who smoke 20 a day. Means no safe level of smoking for you! So quit instead of cutting down . Within 4-5 years of quitting smoking, your stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker [WHO].
2. Nine ways to prevent heart diseases and live 8 to 9 years longer
Step 1. First check your personal risk of getting heart disease. Use NHS heart age calculator – takes 3 minutes, decide on your actions to improve your heart health here.
Step 2. Here are common heart disease symptoms that are probably nothing, but should never be ignored. Understand poor heart health warnings from your own body – watch out for these:
- Aching legs, often in your calves, brought on by walking and stopping when you rest – please tell your doctor now, today! Because there are solutions below…
- Puffy ankles, swollen feet or legs are common in pregnancy and hot weather. They can also be a sign of congestive heart failure, diabetes or kidney and liver problems. So if the swelling doesn’t go after putting your feet up for a while, call 111 for advice.
- Jaw, neck or back ache, sometimes can be a warning of a heart attack, particularly in women. Getting to hospital quickly, ideally within an hour of symptoms starting, is crucial for preventing lasting damage to the heart muscle.
- Chest pain, tightness or ‘crushing’ in the centre of your chest, or vomiting sick – dial 999.
- Shortness of breath – Struggling to take breath when climbing stairs might just mean that you’re a bit unfit, but there might be something else going on in your heart. If it comes on suddenly it should always be checked out, and if your lips or fingers start to go blue, call an ambulance.
- Unusual headache, weakness of one side of your face, slurred speech, or confusion, unable to lift both arms together – act ‘FAST‘ could be minor stroke – dial 999.
If you get early warnings like these, encourage your GP to refer you to hospital for a CT scan – only takes about 20 minutes. Now machine learning (AI) is helping the NHS to identify patients most likely to have a heart attack. How? Heart specialists can use the new ‘CaRi-Heart‘ tool, developed by Oxford researchers funded by the BHF, to work with your CT scan. This tool can help the CT scan to identify people at high risk of a fatal heart attack, years before it strikes.
This means doctors and you together have plenty of time to lower heart diseases risk by making lifestyle changes, and minimising heart dangers using magic statins, mini aspirin, etc.. So, this is a 2021 prevention breakthrough!
Keep monitoring your symptoms, even if your doctor doesn’t seem concerned. “It’s the patient’s responsibility to keep asking themselves, ‘Has it really gone away, has it mostly gone away or is it still there?” People can look at their latest test results on their own NHS app, and say, “Doctor, my symptoms haven’t gone away, I need to see you again.”
Step 3. To keep your heart healthy, plan your exercise & diet. Are you a healthy weight? The UK NHS weight chart will tell you. Being overweight is a big risk . Sticking to a healthy lifestyle at mid-life (not smoking, not being overweight, regular exercise, moderate alcohol intake and a good diet) means you will live 8 to 9 years longer free of major long term diseases [BMJ 2020;368:l6669].
Step 5. Keep your blood pressure down – 5 steps you can take.
Step 7. Watch videos? Got 2 minutes? Watch your own heart attack, a video by British Heart Foundation. If a woman, watch Elizabeth have ‘Just a little Heart Attack‘.
Step 8. Here are 12 extra ways to cut your blood pressure without drugs. Small changes can improve your health [10, 25].
Step 9. Actions? Have you agreed with your doctor a personal, written, healthcare plan to reduce your heart risks ? If not, start to draft your own health plan and discuss it with your GP. Keep on adding to it, e.g. as the high blood pressure guideline changed in Nov. 2017! .
3. Actions if heart emergency near you. Think and act FAST:
3.1 If you think someone near you could have had a heart attack, get help immediately. St John Ambulance says, if you see any of these heart attack warning signs, Call 999. And give the person a 300 mg aspirin to thin the blood, if the person is feeling:
- Chest discomfort, pain, or discomfort in other areas of the upper body,
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, wanting to be sick or feeling light in the head. Call 999.
3.2 If a person does not respond and is not breathing, this means the heart has stopped. First, check that you and the person are not in any danger. If you are, make the situation safe. When it’s safe to do so, assess the person and dial 999 for an ambulance. Now do CPR (which is short for cardiopulmonary resuscitation). As St John Ambulance says, and includes a video on how to do Adult CPR, “CPR involves giving someone a combination of 30 chest compressions then 2 rescue breaths, and repeat to keep their heart and circulation going, to save their life”.
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