You can do a lot to take care of your heart and reduce the chances of developing cardiovascular problems in the future. Even if you just start by making a few simple changes, you should soon start to feel healthier and more in control of your health. You might find it easier to make more or bigger changes once you’ve succeeded with some small ones first.
Cut Out Your Bad Habits
Smoking is one of the most harmful things you can do to your heart. Giving up smoking can make a significant difference to your chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Other bad habits that can be harmful for your heart include drinking too much alcohol and overindulging in unhealthy foods. Cutting back is a great way to take care of your heart.
Manage Your Stress
Stress can take a heavy toll on your physical health. It can make you more likely to indulge in your bad habits, temporarily raises your blood pressure, and can trigger certain heart conditions such as arrhythmias if you are at risk. You should try to eliminate sources of stress in your life, when possible, or find ways of managing them. Talking about your worries, practising mindfulness, or setting some time aside to relax or do something you enjoy can help.
Lose Any Excess Weight
Being overweight can increase your chances of developing cardiovascular problems but you can reduce the risk by reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. It can be a good idea to focus on eating well so that you can achieve this goal steadily rather than trying to rush it with a strict diet. Try to make changes that you’ll be able to stick to in the long term in order to keep your heart and body healthy.
Exercise is great for your heart. As well as helping you to lose any extra weight, regular physical activity can strengthen your heart, improve blood flow, and help reduce blood pressure. Most people should aim to exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, but you should ask your doctor for advice if you have any health problems or you’re new to exercising. Good activities for your heart including walking, swimming, jogging, and cycling, but there are plenty of other types of exercise that can help to get your heart pumping. You should gradually increase the amount and intensity of exercise as you get fitter.
Understand Your Cardiac Risks
Following these general tips on cardiac care will help everyone, but you can also get more personalised advice through heart screening. Cardiac Screen can check for any underlying issues such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure that could increase the chances of developing certain conditions. We’ll provide personalised advice on what you can do to address the specific risk factors identified during screening. Cardiac screening tests can also detect any hidden heart problems that might need treatment to prevent them from becoming worse. We’ll provide all the cardiac care you need to look after your heart.
Many of us have been inspired to take better care of ourselves by the events of the last year, but unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic has also deterred many people from seeking cardiac care when they need it. Improving your diet and lifestyle can prevent heart disease but it is also vital to be aware of the signs that you need expert help. You can find world-class cardiac care in London even while we are managing a global pandemic.
Cardiac Care in an Emergency
During the first UK lockdown in 2019 there was a significant drop in the number of people attending hospitals with heart problems. The number of patients admitted with heart attacks or heart failure dropped by more than 50%. Many people were worried about going to A&E during the pandemic in case they became infected. Others were concerned about overwhelming the health services and tried to cope with their symptoms at home. Similar effects were seen again during the autumn and winter as COVID-19 rates rose again and it is feared that this could lead to further rises in avoidable deaths from heart disease.
Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack should call an ambulance right away. Signs of a possible heart attack include sudden chest pain or tightness, pain that spreads along the arm or jaw, and suddenly becoming sweaty, lightheaded, or breathless. A heart attack is a medical emergency so it is vital to get help as quickly as possible, even during lockdown.
Seeing a Heart Specialist
Although other cardiac symptoms may not require emergency medical care, they still need to be assessed by a doctor as soon as possible. You shouldn’t ignore symptoms such as heart palpitations or dizziness because of COVID-19 anxieties. It’s also important to be aware that symptoms such as breathlessness, a persistent cough, and fatigue can be caused by heart problems if you have tested negative for COVID-19. You could have a serious heart condition that requires prompt treatment, so you should make an appointment with your GP or see a heart specialist directly.
Cardiac Screen is taking all the necessary measures to keep you safe when you seek cardiac care in London. If you’re experiencing any cardiac symptoms then we can run tests to find out the cause. We may recommend some of the following tests:
- echocardiogram – an ultrasound scan to check your heart’s structure and movements
- ECG – measures the electrical activity in your heart that controls its beating
- exercise tests – monitoring your heart while you are on a treadmill
- blood pressure – to check how well your heart is functioning
- lung function tests – measuring your lung capacity and function
- blood and urine tests – to check for metabolic problems, infections, and other issues
If we do detect a problem then we’ll talk you through the treatment options, which could include lifestyle changes, medication, or surgery. We provide complete cardiac care in London so we’ll be here to provide all the support you need.
A stroke is a medical emergency so it is important to be aware of the signs and to call an ambulance immediately if you think that you (or someone else) might be having a stroke. The faster that you get treatment for a stroke, the better the chances of limiting the effects and saving your life.
Signs of a Stroke
A stroke occurs when one of the blood vessels that supplies the brain becomes blocked, preventing oxygen from reaching it. Without a good supply of oxygenated blood, the brain cells can be damaged or even killed. The effects can depend on how long the blockage persists and which parts of the brain have been affected.
Common symptoms of a stroke include:
- drooping or weakness on one side of the face
- not being able to smile normally
- arm weakness – if you lift both arms up then one of them may slowly droop down even while you’re trying to hold it up
- speech problems such as slurring or difficulty understanding words
- changes in the vision of one eye
- a very severe headache
- feeling confused
- not being able to walk or balance properly due to dizziness or lack of coordination
The symptoms of a stroke often appear suddenly, but in some cases, they can develop more slowly over the course of several hours. Sometimes the symptoms can disappear quickly as the blood flow to the brain is restored. This is known as a ministroke and it can indicate that you are at high risk of having a more serious stroke soon, so it is important to seek medical help even if you start feeling better.
What to Do If You Suspect a Stroke
If you think that you or someone else might be having a stroke or ministroke then you should call an ambulance right away. You need medical care as soon as possible to confirm what is happening and to ensure you get the right treatment. If you’re alone and having trouble speaking then you should try to make some noise, tap on the phone, or press “55” when you are prompted to, in order to ensure the operator knows you need help.
The operator will advise you on what to do while you’re waiting for the ambulance to arrive. It is important to stay calm and avoid any strenuous activities. If someone is there with you then they can help you to loosen any clothing around your neck that could make it harder for you to breathe and assist you to lie down on your side with a cushion or other support to keep your head slightly raised and a blanket to keep you warm. They can also ensure that the door is unlocked and guide the ambulance crew to you when they arrive. You shouldn’t try to drink water or take any medicine (even aspirin). The best thing you can do is to wait and rest as much as possible.
Blocked arteries can cause serious problems if they prevent blood from reaching vital parts of the body such as the heart or brain. However, the symptoms of blocked arteries aren’t always obvious until they cause a life-threatening issue such as a heart attack or stroke. Sometimes the only way to know if your arteries are clogged is to undergo a screening test such as a carotid Doppler ultrasound, which can check for blockages that might put you at risk of a stroke.
Why Do Arteries Get Clogged?
Clogged arteries occur because of a condition known as atherosclerosis, which happens when fatty material from the blood sticks to the inside of the arteries. Over time, enough of this material can build up that it starts to affect the flow of blood. The effects of this can depend on the location of the blockage. Clogged arteries can be particularly dangerous when they affect blood supplying the heart or brain as these organs need continuous supplies of oxygen to keep functioning properly.
Signs of Clogged Arteries
Clogged arteries don’t always cause any obvious symptoms so the problem is often missed unless it causes a medical emergency such as a heart attack or stroke. Sometimes there can be warning signs that an artery is blocked before it causes a serious event. Angina occurs when there is a blockage in a blood vessel supplying the heart. It can cause symptoms such as chest pain, breathlessness, heart palpitations and sweating, which may be triggered by physical activity. Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) or mini-strokes can occur when there is a blockage affecting the brain. The symptoms can include temporary weakness on one side of your body, loss of vision in one eye, or slurred speech. Angina can be a sign that you are at risk of a heart attack while a TIA is a warning that you are at risk of a major stroke, so it is vital to take these symptoms seriously and see a doctor.
Tests for Clogged Arteries
Cardiac screening can reveal whether you are at risk of clogged arteries by testing for issues such as high cholesterol that can increase the chances of fatty deposits accumulating in your blood vessels. If you are at high risk, you’re experiencing issues such as angina, or you’ve already had a stroke or heart attack, then there are some tests that can look inside your arteries to check for blockages. At the Cardiac Screen clinic, we can use ultrasounds to look for signs of blockages. An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of your heart that can help us to assess the risk of heart disease while a carotid Doppler ultrasound allows us to measure the flow of blood through the arteries that supply your brain. The carotid Doppler scan is used to evaluate the risk of a stroke. If any issues are detected during these tests, treatment may help to improve the blood flow through your clogged arteries and reduce the risks.
Sports screening can be a good idea for athletes of all ages and skill levels, from young amateurs to experienced professionals. Even if you feel fit and healthy, there could be underlying issues that could be affecting your performance or putting you at risk.
The Purpose of Sports Screening
Sports screening is preventative so it is for people who are healthy and don’t have any noticeable symptoms. The aims of screening are to detect:
- Issues that could be reducing your performance, such as nutritional deficiencies
- Risk factors that could affect your future performance or wellbeing without the correct management, such as diabetes or high blood pressure
- Health conditions that could be triggered by exercises, such as heart arrhythmia or cardiomyopathy that may need to be treated to keep you safe
The results of sports screening can help you to train more effectively, improve your performance, and ensure that you take the action that is needed to address any risks or underlying health problems.
When to Arrange Sports Screening
Sports screening can be arranged at any time that suits you. It could be a good idea to visit Cardiac Screen for sports screening if you are:
- About to take up a new sport
- Planning to make significant changes to your training
- Preparing for a major challenge or event
- Signing up for an event that requires screening
- A young athlete who is planning a career in sport
- Over 35, as the risk of heart disease and other health problems increases as we get older
- An older athlete who wants to keep exercising safely
- An athlete with a family history of heart disease which could place you at higher risk
If you want to boost your performance and keep yourself healthy while you exercise then you can arrange sports screening at the Cardiac Screen clinic.
What Are the Different Types of Cardiac Tests?
Cardiac screening can include a range of different tests to look at different aspects of your heart health.
- Monitors the electrical activity in your heart that controls its beating
- Sensors are attached to your skin while you lie down and relax
- Produces a line chart showing changes in electrical activity as your heartbeats
- Used to diagnose conditions such as heart arrhythmias that cause abnormal heartbeats
- Can also detect coronary heart disease and help assess the risk of a heart attack
- Painless, non-invasive and completely safe cardiac test
- Usually completed in just a few minutes
Exercise ECG Tests
- Uses similar equipment to the resting ECG to monitor electrical activity in your heart
- Performed while you are exercising on a treadmill
- Can reveal issues that only cause symptoms when you are physically active
- May be performed as part of sports screening or if you have symptoms that are triggered by exercise
- Portable device that monitors your cardiac health as you go about your usual routine
- Usually worn for 24-48 hours
- Portable ECG can monitor electrical activity in your heart
- Portable blood pressure monitor can also be used to detect cardiovascular problems
- Can detect issues that only occur some of the time, such as unpredictable arrhythmias
- Ultrasound scan of your heart
- The ultrasound probe will be moved across your chest
- Produces moving pictures of your heart in real-time
- Reveals the structure of your heart, which can reveal any abnormalities such as thickening of the heart muscle
- Shows your heart beating, which can reveal functional issues such as problems with the movements of the heart valves
- Can be used to assess the damage after a heart attack
- Painless, non-invasive and completely safe cardiac test
Other types of tests may also be performed to learn more about your cardiovascular health:
Good nutrition is essential for a healthy immune system so it’s vital to eat well when viruses are circulating. Eating a balanced diet will help to keep you and your immune system healthy:
- Include a range of different fruits and vegetables in your diet to get plenty of vitamins and minerals
- Try to eat fruits and vegetables of different colours as they contain different kinds of nutrients
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of wholegrains and protein
- Avoid unhealthy fatty and sugary foods
The best way to get the nutrition you need is through a healthy diet, but supplements can make up for anything that is lacking in your food.
A multivitamin supplement can top up any vitamins you’re missing out on, but there are some vitamins that could be particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Vitamin D is the nutrient that people in the UK are most likely to lack, especially when we aren’t spending much time outside as sunshine helps our bodies to process it
- Vitamin K helps to regulate blood clotting so some scientists believe it might help protect against COVID-19 complications, although the evidence is limited
- Vitamin C is important for our immune systems so it can be a good idea to take a supplement if you’re not getting enough from your diet
Make sure to read the labels on nutritional supplements and don’t take more than one supplement containing the same nutrient. Too much of a particular vitamin can be harmful.
Other ways to boost your immune system during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Getting regular exercise can improve your general health as well as your immune system
- Making sure you are sleeping well can keep your immune system at its best
- Managing your stress levels can prevent your mood from weakening your immune system
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