Dr Sam Firoozi – a consultant cardiologist at The Harley Street Clinic (part of HCA Healthcare UK) – spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk about the heart condition that usually precedes a heart attack. “Coronary heart disease (CHD) occurs when the coronary arteries start to become obstructed or blocked as a result of fatty deposits,” Dr Firoozi explained. “It is important to look out for signs and symptoms of CHD, which may result in heart attack or heart failure, which are potentially fatal medical conditions.”
Symptoms of coronary heart disease may include:
- Chest pain, especially on exertion
- Shortness of breath on exertion
- Chest pain associated with left arm or jaw discomfort
- Feeling faint or dizzy on exertion.
One popular drink that could be contributing to the development of CHD is alcohol.
“Alcohol is a toxin,” Dr Firoozi put bluntly; it acts as a “depressor” for the muscles of the heart.
Drinking large volumes of alcohol can raise blood pressure readings, which is harmful to the circulatory system, thereby increasing the risk of CHD.
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Another lifestyle choice to stay away from is smoking in any type of way – shisha, cigarettes, or roll-ups.
“Smoking strongly increases the risk of coronary heart disease,” said Dr Firoozi.
It does this by “by making blood more viscous… damaging the lining and architecture of the coronary arteries”.
This results in fatty deposits building along the coronary arteries – the epitome of CHD.
Another smart move is to manage feelings of stress in a healthy way, which can otherwise result in high blood pressure and CHD.
A person’s diet is also critical, as eating “foods rich in saturated fats and animal protein can lead to an increase in LDL [low-density lipoprotein] cholesterol and triglycerides”.
LDL cholesterol and raised triglycerides increases the risk of CHD, Dr Firoozi confirmed.
“Therefore, it’s important to adhere to a balanced diet, ensuring you eat plant-based products such as pulses, fruit and vegetables, plenty of fibre and avoid eating too much salt and sugar.”
Dr Firoozi continued: “Lack of exercise can contribute to the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
“Doing exercise can help with your cardiovascular health by maintaining a healthy body weight and keeping blood pressure at a healthy level.”
Unmodifiable risk factors – that you simply can’t change – include age and family history of CHD.
“There are multiple different tests that can be performed to determine how healthy someone’s heart is,” said Dr Firoozi.
Heart tests include:
- A electrocardiogram (ECG)
“This test is used to test the rhythm of your heart as well as its electrical activity,” said Dr Firoozi.
An ECG can determine if somebody has had a previous heart attack, coronary heart disease, an abnormal heart rhythm, and evidence of heart failure.
“These tests can be carried out if your doctor thinks you may be living with a heart condition,” said Dr Firoozi.