June 2018 is Wear it. Beat it. month, the annual campaign run by the British Heart Foundation, which is aimed at raising awareness of heart and circulatory disease. It is also an excellent opportunity to raise funds to help support the life-saving research funded by the charity.
Cardiovascular disease causes a quarter of deaths in the UK each year, and, at any one time, there are around 7 million people living in the UK with cardiovascular disease, which affects equal numbers of men and women and people of all ages. It is estimated by the British Heart Foundation that the total healthcare costs relating to cardiovascular disease are £9 billion each year.
The impact of cardiovascular disease is clearly devastating for all families affected, which is why it is so important to raise awareness of what cardiovascular disease is and what symptoms to look out for, so people know when to seek medical advice.
Cardiovascular disease is a general term for all heart and circulatory disease, which can be confusing as it includes a range of conditions, from heart failure, congenital and inherited conditions to coronary heart disease and arrhythmia.
Coronary heart disease is the most common type of cardiovascular disease and is responsible for over 66,000 deaths in the UK each year. This is caused by atherosclerosis, a build-up of fatty plaque, in the arteries. The plaque build-up then thickens, gradually narrowing the artery walls, which can inhibit blood flow. This puts an increasing strain on the heart and, if undiagnosed, it can lead to heart failure and heart attacks. More men than women die from coronary heart disease. This can sometimes lead to women’s symptoms not being investigated thoroughly.
Heart attacks are most often caused by coronary heart disease, when an artery is blocked suddenly as a result of plaque in the artery walls. Further, angina (chest pain) is caused by restricted blood flow to the heart muscle. Heart failure is then caused when the heart is not pumping blood around the body as it should, which can occur if the arteries are blocked or, most commonly, when the heart has been damaged by a heart attack.
The symptoms of cardiovascular disease depend on the type of heart disease in question. They can also vary between men and women. Many people may put the potential symptoms of heart disease down to other problems, for example, stomach pain, which may be mistaken for indigestion-type pain rather than heart pain.
Part of the aim of Wear it. Beat it. month is to raise awareness of the symptoms people need to look out for that might indicate a potential heart problem.
The main symptoms of heart disease in general are set out on the British Heart Foundation’s website, along with advice on what to do if such symptoms are experienced. The details can be accessed here, but are summarised as follows:
Many people are not diagnosed with cardiovascular disease until they have experienced a heart attack, angina, stroke or heart failure. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the symptoms and to speak to a medical professional as soon as possible.
Camilla Wonnacott, an associate in Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team, said: “Wear It. Beat It. month is an excellent opportunity to highlight the problems that heart disease can cause. It affects so many people each year but if individuals are familiar with the symptoms, they will know when to speak to their doctor about their concerns, hopefully leading to early intervention and diagnosis.”