October 25, 2012 9.25 am This story is over 135 months old

Your health: Are you at risk of a stroke or heart attack?

Risk factors: Lisa Boulton puts cardiovascular disease in context as Lincoln is affected more than the England average.

Did you know that 200,000 lives a year are lost in Britain from cardiovascular (CVD) disease? That’s double the population of Lincoln. A further 4 million people are suffering from cardiovascular related diseases. It costs the UK £30 billion a year and it is the UKs biggest killer, yet 80-90% of premature CVD is preventable.

Early deaths from Heart Attack and Stroke are higher than the England average in Lincoln but a large number of early deaths from CVD can be prevented by making a few changes to your lifestyle.

What is CVD? Coronary Heart Disease such as Angina Pectoris and Heart attack, TIA’s (mini strokes), stroke and Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). Connected to CVD is kidney disease (renal stenosis) and aneurysms.

One of the things that can cause CVD is atherosclerosis. This is where waxy plaques build up on the arteries causing what is commonly known as hardening of the arteries. Angina, PAD and renal stenosis are a consequence of atherosclerosis where the artery narrows from fatty materials such as cholesterol.

Diagram showing atherosclerotic changes to the artery wall

Angina is where the coronary arteries become narrowed and so blood supply to the heart is limited.  Angina is often brought on by physical activity, an emotional upset, cold weather or after a meal.

PAD is mostly a term used to describe narrowing of the arteries in the legs. This is often symptomless in its early stages, but as time goes on symptoms such as pain in the calf muscles, thighs or buttocks are experienced when walking or exercising and even worse, constant pain when at rest. This can result in a poor blood supply to the extremities and as a consequence, ulcers and gangrene.

Kidneys can be affected by the narrowing of their arteries, this results in high blood pressure and kidney failure. Aneurysms can form for many reasons but one cause may be a weakening of the arterial wall because of atheroma.

CVD such as Heart Attack, TIA’s and 85% of strokes are a consequence of arterial plaques breaking off the arterial wall or clots causing blockages stopping the oxygen getting to the heart or brain.

Some other risk factors for CVD are smoking, an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.

For more information on CVD check out sites such as NHSChoices, Netdoctor, Patient.co.uk and the British Heart Foundation.

Lisa Boulton is the Medical Director of Amethyst Health Screening, a local company which carries out health checks and cardiovascular risk assessments for Lincoln residents and local businesses. She contributes on health-related topics for The Lincolnite.