Keeping Heart

Posted on: 04 April 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

While medical treatment for a blocked coronary artery is a relatively minor medical procedure these days, by making subtle lifestyle changes today, all men can avoid a future blighted by heart disease.

While medical treatment for a blocked coronary artery is a relatively minor medical procedure these days, by making subtle lifestyle changes today, all men can avoid a future blighted by heart disease.

While musician David Bowie may not have lived the healthiest of lives until sobering up in recent years, his recent heart problems highlight the risks that men of Bowie's age need to be aware of the dangers of heart disease.

It was reported that Bowie, famous for hits such as Changes and Major Tom in the seventies, was given an angioplasty to correct a blocked coronary artery. More than 45,000 people receive an angioplasty operation every year, quadruple the number of operations performed in 1992.

Angioplasty is a procedure which works on fatty deposits that have caused a narrowing of the arteries. A fine hollow tube with a small inflatable balloon at its tip is inserted into an artery in the groin towards the narrowed coronary artery, where the balloon is gently inflated. This squashes the fatty tissue responsible for the narrowing against the artery wall and widens the artery. Most people also have a stent - a mesh tube - inserted at the same time into the artery where it has become narrowed.

When you have angiopplasty, you usually have a local anaesthetic in the groin and you stay awake for the procedure, and you will be able to watch the procedure on a television screen if you wish. Most people can go home the day after the procedure and often get back to work after about a week or so, depending on their type of work.

Angioplasty is increasingly used to improve the blood flow in the coronary arteries when fatty deposits build up to create a blockage.

"The procedure was introduced in 1977 as an alternative to heart surgery for treating coronary heart disease," says Belinda Linden, Head of Medical Information at the British Heart Foundation (BHF). The BHF believes that there are a number of risk factors that could lead to a man's arteries becoming blocked by fatty deposits.

"The main factors are smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, inactivity, diabetes, and obesity. Smoking, forr example, is responsible for up to 20 in every 100 deaths from coronary heart disease in the UK," continues Ms. Linden.

"When you have had an angioplasty, it is important to consider these factors to reduce your risk of further damage, but the procedure itself should not prevent you from returning to a full and active life.

"We should all also be more aware of the wide range of angina symptoms that could warn men of coronary heart disease and encourage them to see a doctor.

Symptoms of heart disease men need to look out for include tightness, heaviness, or aches in the chest, arms, shoulder, neck or stomach, maybe with sweating, dizziness or sickness which may come on with exertion and go away with rest. In many cases only one of these symptoms may be present. If the pain is not relived over time it is important to get help - always ring for an ambulance before phoning your GP.

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