Coronary heart disease

Introduction

Coronary heart disease is the UK's biggest killer, with one in every four men and one in every six women dying from the disease. In the UK, approximately 300,000 people have a heart attack each year.

Angina affects about one in 50 people, and in the UK there are an estimated 1.2 million people with the condition. It affects men more than women, and your chances of getting it increase as you get older.

About the heart

The heart is a muscle that is about the size of your fist. It pumps blood around your body and beats approximately 70 times a minute. After the blood leaves the heart, it goes to your lungs where it picks up oxygen.

The oxygen-rich blood returns to your heart and is then pumped to the organs of your body through a network of arteries. The blood returns to your heart through veins before being pumped back to your lungs again. This process is called circulation.

The heart gets its own supply of blood from a network of blood vessels on the surface of your heart, called coronary arteries.

Coronary heart disease

 Coronary heart disease is the term that describes what happens when your heart's blood supply is blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries.

Over time, the walls of your arteries can become furred up with fatty deposits. This process is known as atherosclerosis, and the fatty deposits are called atheroma. If your coronary arteries become narrow due to a build up of atheroma, the blood supply to your heart will be restricted. This can cause angina (chest pains).

If a coronary artery becomes completely blocked, it can cause a heart attack. The medical term for a heart attack is myocardial infarction.

By making some simple lifestyle changes, you can reduce your risk of getting coronary heart disease. And if you already have heart disease, you can take steps to reduce your risk of developing further heart-related problems.

 

Last updated: 04 October 2011

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