Cardiovascular Disease - Know Your Risk

Dr. Kate Bishop |Chief Scientific Officer

Last updated: 19 Jul 2019


Your heart is a muscle that works as a pump to keep blood moving around your body. The left side of your heart receives blood from the lungs and pumps oxygen rich blood and nutrients through arteries to the tissues of your body. The right side of the heart carries away carbon dioxide and waste products from the tissues, with the blood flowing through your veins.


The combination of your heart and the circulation of blood through the arteries and veins (blood vessels) of your body is known as your cardiovascular system, so the group of diseases which affect this are known as Cardiovascular Disease, or CVD.

Cardiovascular Disease is a Problem.

A Huge Problem.


With around 7.4million people living in the UK with heart and circulatory disease, and most (80%) of these people having at least one other health condition, cardiovascular diseases have a huge impact on our lives.


Cardiovascular Diseases kill more than one in four people in the UK. On average someone dies every three minutes, with a total of nearly 170,000 deaths per year.

Two of the major cardiovascular diseases include:


1.    Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)


Coronary heart disease is the most common type of cardiovascular disease and leads to the most heart attacks. It’s the leading cause of death worldwide and causes 1 in 7 men and 1 in 12 women to die in the UK. That’s 22,000 people under the age of 75.


Coronary Heart Disease is caused by fatty deposits building up on the walls of the heart’s coronary arteries (atherosclerosis). These deposits cause the artery to narrow, making it harder for your heart to function properly, and causing pain or discomfort known as angina.  


Over time this can lead to heart failure, and in the event of a clot the blockage stops blood supply to the heart muscles, which may cause it to stop beating. This is known as cardiac arrest or in medical terms a myocardial infarction.

Put simply; a heart attack


There are over 100,000 hospital admissions and 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the UK each year. Less than 1 in 10 people survive out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

 

2.    Strokes (Cerebrovascular Disease)

Stokes, where the brain is starved of oxygen killing brain cells, are the biggest cause of severe disability and cause over 36,000 deaths in the UK each year.

That’s the third biggest killer in the UK and over 1.3 million people in the UK have survived either a stroke or a ‘mini-stroke’ where blood supply to the brain is disrupted.


What Causes Cardiovascular Disease?

There are many risk factors associated with developing heart and circulatory diseases. Some are inherited genetic conditions, or congenital diseases which develop before a baby is born. But many are directly linked to modifiable risk factors, i.e. risks that you can reduce through healthier lifestyle choices and by managing existing conditions.


The British Heart Foundation details the following risk factors as being the most important causes of cardiovascular disease:

 

Rank

High systolic blood pressure (hypertension)

 1

Dietary risks (lack of wholegrains, nuts, seeds, fruit, veg, excess salt, sugar) 

 2

High LDL (bad) cholesterol

 3

High fasting plasma glucose (diabetes)

 4

High body-mass index (obesity)

 5

Tobacco (cigarette smoking, second hand smoke)

 6

Low physical activity (inactivity, sedentary behaviour)

 7

 

It’s clear that many of these risk factors are linked, so if you have a poor diet, are obese or do little physical activity, you’re also at increased risk from high blood pressure and having diabetes. These conditions in turn also increase your risk from cardiovascular disease.

How Can I Reduce My Risk from Developing Cardiovascular Disease?


Our first recommendation is to ensure that your diet is as healthy as possible, you have your bodyweight under control and your blood pressure is normal.


However, as the early stages of heart disease may have no symptoms, the best way to gauge and assess your current risk is through the measurement of biomarkers in your blood.

There are specific tests for this, each perfect for easily assessing your risk from cardiovascular disease from home. Accurate clinical results enable you to make targeted, measurable improvements and reduce your risks.

 

A Cholesterol & CRP Test Kit checks blood fat levels and gives highly sensitive heart disease risk analysis, by measuring:

  1. Total Cholesterol:  this is a fatty substance known as a lipid and is vital for the normal functioning of the body. Having a high cholesterol level increases your risk of dying of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke.
  2. Good Cholesterol (HDL - high-density lipoprotein) benefits your health so higher levels are better. Studies show that high levels of Good Cholesterol may protect against heart attack and stroke. Conversely low levels of Good Cholesterol are linked with an increased risk of heart disease.
  3. Bad Cholesterol (LDL - low-density lipoprotein) is detrimental to your health. High levels of Bad Cholesterol contribute to fatty build-ups in arteries (atherosclerosis).
  4. Triglycerides are a form of dietary fat found in meats, dairy produce and cooking oils. There is evidence to suggest that high levels of triglycerides contribute to the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  5. C-Reactive Protein: chronic low levels of inflammation are linked to a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease (heart disease) and complications such as heart attack and strokes. A very high sensitivity (hs-CRP) test is used to ensure that these low levels of inflammation are detected.

You can also measure your risk from hardening or furring of the arteries with an Artery Health Test Kit. This advanced, very selective test checks the level of inflammation in your coronary artery walls.


This inflammation is associated with the hardening or furring of your arteries known as atherosclerosis. Plaques makes it hard for the heart to pump blood, restricting the blood flow and oxygen supply to vital organs. This increases the risk of blood clots which can block the flow of blood to the heart or brain. 

These conditions are largely preventable with a healthy lifestyle, and the risk of serious problems can be reduced with treatment.


 


Similar home testing articles:

Cholesterol: The Good & The Bad

What Do My Cholesterol Test Results Mean?

Essential Health Checks

Cardiovascular Disease - Know Your Risk: References & Citations

  1. British Heart Foundation - UK Factsheet April 2019 https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/heart-statistics/heart-statistics-publications
  2. Tran J, Norton R, Conrad N, Rahimian F, Canoy D, Nazarzadeh M, et al. Patterns and temporal trends of comorbidity among adult patients with incident cardiovascular disease in the UK between 2000 and 2014: A population-based cohort study. PLoS Med. 2018; 15(3):e1002513. PMID: 29509757 https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002513
  3. BHF analysis of latest UK mortality statistics: ONS/NRS/NISRA (2017 data)
  4. Stroke Association (2018) State of the nation: Stroke statistics. https://www.stroke.org.uk/system/files/sotn_2018.pdf
  5. World Health Organization, 2018, https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/the-top-10-causes-of-death
  6. UK hospital statistics, 2017-18; NHS Digital/ISD Scotland/NHS Wales/DH Northern Ireland
  7. Case fatality rates in Smolina’s 2012 BMJ paper on acute MI mortality https://www.bmj.com/content/344/bmj.d8059
  8. NHS England (2018). Ambulance Quality Indicators https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/ambulance-quality-indicators/
  9. Scottish Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest Data Linkage 2017/18 Results https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-out-hospital-cardiac-arrest-data-linkage-project-2017-18-results/

 

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