The Fono

Health & Social Services

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Heart disease / stroke

Heart disease covers all the diseases that affect the heart, including diseases of your blood vessels, such as coronary artery disease; heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias); heart infections; and heart defects you're born with (congenital heart defects).

Heart disease is caused by the build-up of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries. The fatty deposits take years to build up in the artery walls and this process is medically known as atherosclerosis. The fatty deposits known as 'plaques’ or atheroma are made up of many substances including a fatty substance called cholesterol.

Over time the artery may become so narrow that it can’t deliver enough blood oxygen to your heart, especially when you are exerting yourself. This can lead to chest pain or angina which you will feel as a pain or discomfort in your chest.

As the coronary arteries narrow, you will often experience chest pain or tightness, known as angina. This pain may spread to the left shoulder or arm or to the neck and jaw. The pain can occur after exercise, in stressful situations, after a heavy meal or especially in the cold weather.

Palpitations, when you are aware that your heart is not beating normally or shortness of breath when doing light activity, may also be early symptoms of heart disease. However, some people can have heart disease without having any noticeable symptoms. If you have any concerns about heart disease speak to your doctor at The Fono for advice.

You can control your symptoms by making small changes to your lifestyle, which can reduce your risk of developing heart disease. These including quitting smoking, controlling high blood pressure, reducing your cholesterol level, being physically active, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, controlling your blood glucose if you have diabetes, eating a healthy, balanced diet and only drinking moderate amounts of alcohol.

Heart and diabetes check

A 'heart and diabetes check’ is a health check where you and your doctor or nurse identify your risk of having a heart attack, stroke or developing diabetes over the next 5 years. Risks are things such as age, family history, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and being physically inactive. Some of these risk factors can't be changed, but there are others that you can decide to change.

In the past, your doctor may have treated each one of these things separately. A heart and diabetes check looks at all the risk factors together, a bit like putting all the pieces of a puzzle together so you can see the whole picture.

The result of a heart and diabetes check is like looking at the whole picture (estimated risk), rather than each piece (individual risk factor) of the puzzle on its own. You will then find out your estimated risk, which describes how much at risk you are of having a heart attack, stroke or developing diabetes over the next five years.

Cholesterol management
Although the body needs a certain amount of cholesterol, when there is more cholesterol circulating in the blood than the body needs the cholesterol can build up on the artery walls. This eventually leads to narrowing and hardening of the arteries, a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. This risk is increased when other risk factors such as high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease are also present.

Improving your heart health
You can improve your heart health by adopting a heart healthy diet, increasing your physical activity, maintaining a healthy body weight and reducing your alcohol intake.

Your Doctor at The Fono can check the health of your heart and test your cholesterol levels. They can recommend changes to your lifestyle to help improve the health of your heart, and prescribe medicine when appropriate to lower your blood pressure or reduce your cholesterol levels.

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