Heart disease is the single biggest killer in Scotland. It acts as a huge burden on the NHS, with someone in Scotland being admitted to hospital due to a heart attack every 50 minutes. It causes daily devastation, with coronary heart disease causing around 18 deaths every day.
New research and innovative technologies are in place and advancing every day to help combat the issue with a strong focus on continuing to build on vital research, preventing heart diseases from developing, and ensuring that those with existing conditions live longer, better lives.
In recent years, significant progress has been made to reduce death rates, thanks to these advances in diagnosis, treatment and care of coronary problems.
Sixty years ago, seven in 10 people who had a heart attack in this country didn’t survive. Now, seven in 10 people who’ve had a heart attack return home to their families.
Those who do safely return can act as ambassadors for the prevention of heart disease.
Known as secondary prevention, those who have suffered a problem – a small heart attack for example – then use this scare to take action, reassessing their diet and exercise.
The oil and gas industry, particularly those offshore, is made up of an ageing workforce.
Cardiac problems are no stranger to these workers. Although many return to work with a new mindset – inspired by secondary prevention – a huge number also aren’t given this second chance at life.
Preventing coronary artery disease is largely about controlling the risk factors.
Ideally, prevention habits start early, but they remain important all through life. It’s never too late to change, though the earlier in life you do so, the greater the advantage.
Smart steps to take include:
– Ditch the cigarettes. Smoking is considered one of the key risk factors in causing heart attacks. It makes the walls of your arteries sticky from the chemicals, so fatty material can stick to them. If the arteries that carry blood to your heart get damaged and clogged, it can lead to a heart attack. Not much better is passive smoking. So whenever possible, steer clear of second-hand smoke.
– Eat better. Aim for an eating plan that’s low in saturated and trans fats and high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. The fats found in olive oil and fish, those high in fibre (found in plant foods), and treats low in salt and sugar will also keep your heart healthier for longer.
– Keep active. A good goal is at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise each week. Aim to be active for 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. Adding in walks over lunch, and opting for the stairs instead of the lift can help promote this. Simple steps, big differences.
– Be mindful. Some stress is unavoidable in life but it tends to push us towards the bad stuff that can lead to heart problems (overeating, drinking, lazing too much). Consider your mental health as well as your heart health and your body will thank you for it. Try using exercise or mediation to relax.
Dr Stuart Scott is medical director at Iqarus