Lisa Boulton

lisaboulton

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.


No matter what age, size or even fitness level you are, you could be at risk of heart disease or heart attack without knowing it. This is because definite risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure are mostly symptomless; however, could there be any visible outward signs which may be predictors of heart attack and heart disease?

For example, it has been said that earlobe creases, a receding hairline at the temple, baldness at the crown of the head or yellow fatty cholesterol deposits around the eyelids may be predictors of heart disease and heart attack in some.

In 1976, a group of Danish researchers began studying 11,000 people 40yrs or older and found that subjects who displayed three to four of the above signs of visible aging (independent of traditional risk factors such as high cholesterol), had a 57% increased risk of heart attack and a 39% increased risk of heart disease, the risk increasing with each additional sign of aging.

According to the American Heart Association it has been found that out of these four signs the biggest predictor of heart attack and heart disease are yellow deposits around the eyes. Researchers ruled out grey hair and wrinkles as predictors of heart disease (thankfully!).

In the thirty five years since 1976 to 2011, researchers found that 3,401 of those subjects developed heart disease and 1,708 suffered a heart attack. A limitation of this study though, is it only involved an all white population, therefore results can’t necessarily be applied to other races and ethnic groups without more research.

The British Heart Foundation reported on a possible predisposition between heart disease and those that have diagonal creases on both earlobes, although that doesn’t mean everyone that has earlobe creases or any of the other signs will definitely have heart disease or experience a heart attack, as seen from the Danish study.

Links to heart disease have also been found in those that are shorter rather than taller, those that have an apple shape and also those that have a family history of heart disease.

It’s not possible to change our genetic predisposition to heart disease but we can definitely find out what our risk is and how to lower our personal risk. Once we know what our personal risk is, it’s possible to make a few tweaks to our lifestyle to help lower that risk, and live as long as possible!

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.

Did you know it takes approximately one minute for your blood to circulate around your body? That means by the time you read this article your blood will have roughly travelled around your body twice. Each day the heart beats an average of 100,000 times and pumps approximately 2,000 gallons of blood through about 60,000 miles of blood vessels to tissues and organs.

There is no doubt the heart is a fantastic piece of engineering; but we also have a second heart!

Arteries take oxygenated blood from the heart. Veins however take deoxygenated blood back to the lungs and heart by means of the hearts residual pumping force. Also, muscle contraction of the calf and foot, along with our breathing contribute to moving blood back up the body. Veins have valves, which act like trapdoors, allowing blood to flow through but stop blood from moving backwards. This venous pumping system is often described as the second heart.

There are two systems of veins at work in the legs. The deep veins are a large diameter and are situated close to the bone, surrounded by muscle. The superficial veins are situated near the skin and are at times visible. These two systems have a series of connecting veins called perforators. When there is a reflux of blood from the higher pressure deep veins to the superficial veins from defective valves, varicose veins occur. Defective valves can also cause blood to pool around the lower leg.

If blood flow slows for some reason, blood clots may form which can lead to valve damage, enlarged veins and thrombosis (i.e. DVT). Some symptoms of a DVT are severe pain, tenderness, swelling, redness and warmth in the leg. If you have any symptoms of a DVT seek medical attention immediately.

A few other signs and symptoms of venous disease are spider veins, oedema, changes to the colour of the leg and condition of the skin, ulcers, (85% are venous) and there may be sensations of pain, tightness, heaviness or bursting deep inside the leg.

Risk factors for venous disease:

  • Family history of venous disease
  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Prolonged standing
  • Prolonged inactivity (i.e. flying, car journeys, sunbathing, sitting, immobility from surgery or injury etc)
  • A history of thrombosis
  • Injury or surgery
  • Illness
  • Certain medications (i.e contraceptive pill)
  • Lifestyle
  • Hypercoagulability

If you have any symptoms associated with venous disease it is important you consult your GP.

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.

The word aneurysm comes from a Greek word meaning ‘to dilate’ and is used to describe a widening of a blood vessel where the wall of the vessel is weakened and bulges out as blood flows through it. Aneurysms occur anywhere in the body and are more common in arteries than veins.

What exactly causes aneurysms is unclear; however some of the risk factors for an arterial aneurysm (AA) are: smoking, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, congenital weakening of the arteries and a family history of aneurysms. What sex and age you are has a bearing too. Addressing some of these factors now can help lower your risk.

Two common areas that AA’s can be found are the abdominal area and brain. Men are five times more at risk of an abdominal aortic aneurysm than women, and the older a person is, the more likely they will develop an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Whereas brain aneurysms (often called intracranial or cerebral aneurysms) affect more women than men and each year only 1 in 12,500 rupture. Interestingly, anger can be a risk factor in rupturing a brain aneurysm!

Most AA’s are symptomless unless, as they grow, they start to press on surrounding structures or rupture. See below for some possible symptoms of not ruptured and ruptured AA’s.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Not ruptured

  • A vibrating feeling in your abdomen, usually near your belly button, that’s usually only noticeable when you touch it
  • Pain in the abdomen, back, loin or groin
  • If you are very slim you may notice an abdominal lump

Ruptured

  • Pain in middle/side of abdomen, in men pain can also radiate down into the scrotum
  • Dizziness
  • Cold and sweaty
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Faintness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Low blood pressure

Cerebral Aneurysm

Not ruptured

  • Visual disturbances, i.e. loss of vision/double vision
  • Difficulties moving one of your eyes
  • Pain on one side of your face or around your eye
  • Inability to move some facial muscles; usually only one side of your face is affected
  • Headaches
  • Seizures (fits)

Ruptured

  • Sudden, severe headache likened to being hit on the head
  • Stiff neck
  • Feeling/being sick
  • Slurred speech
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Mental confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Weakness/paralysis of an arm or leg

Treatment and surgery for aneurysms depend on whether the aneurysm has ruptured or not and what size and shape it is and where it is located.

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.

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