Heart disease symptoms to look out for in National Heart Month

Posted: 17/02/2016


February is National Heart Month, when heart disease charities such as the British Heart Foundation aim to raise awareness and understanding of heart conditions. 

There are many different types of heart conditions including angina, heart attack, heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms but one of the most common is coronary heart disease (CHD), sometimes referred to as ischaemic heart disease. The heart’s blood supply is blocked by fatty substances (called atheroma) which build up in the coronary arteries over time. 

CHD affects many people in the UK, with 404,000 inpatient episodes of CHD in NHS hospitals in 2012/2013. It affects nearly twice as many men compared to women, accounting for 3.5% of all inpatient episodes in men and 1.5% in women in the UK. CHD is also responsible for more than 73,000 deaths a year in the UK and 2.6 million people in the UK have the condition. 

Angina (chest pain) is a common symptom of CHD which occurs when the coronary arteries become partially blocked. It is important to be aware of the symptoms to look out for and to speak to a medical professional so that a diagnosis can be made. These include:

  • a pain or discomfort in the chest, which can be a mild feeling, similar to indigestion
  • a more painful heaviness or tightness in the chest which extends to the arms, jaw, back or stomach.

Heart attacks occur when a piece of the fatty material which builds up in the coronary arteries breaks off and blocks the artery, cutting off the blood supply to the heart. The symptoms to look out for are similar to angina, but more severe and include:

  • a tightness, heaviness or pain in the chest
  • a pain which may spread to the arms, neck jaw back or stomach
  • shortness of breath, sweating, nausea or vomiting and lightheadedness.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for CHD, but treatment can help to manage the symptoms and risk of heart attacks. The British Heart Foundation’s website includes many helpful ideas to prevent heart disease, which include healthy eating, stopping smoking and regular exercise. Surgery and medication can also be used to manage CHD. 

Penningtons Manches is dealing with an increasing number of cardiac claims which often involve the failure to recognise the signs and symptoms associated with heart attacks, angina and other cardiac diseases. Patients’ symptoms are sometimes dismissed as being benign or minor without a proper referral being made. We also see cases where the investigations are not carried out or test results are not properly interpreted leading to potentially serious consequences. 

Click here for our article about the medical errors that can arise from interventional cardiology.


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