Heart disease and stroke

Heart disease and stroke are a major cause of death worldwide. In the UK, heart disease by itself is the biggest single cause of death; 15% of male and 10% of female deaths in 2014. The number of deaths from heart disease have been decreasing in recent years but it is still one of the major cause of premature death (before 75 years) in the UK and a leading cause of ill health. But the good news is - it is largely preventable! Eating a healthy diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

The condition that causes most heart attacks and strokes is known as atherosclerosis

  • Atherosclerosis is the build-up of fatty material inside arteries (blood vessels) like the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart.
  • The build-up of fatty material causes a narrowing in the artery, and as these become more severe they can restrict the flow of blood so enough blood can’t reach the heart. 
  • This can cause the symptoms of angina (such as chest pain and shortness of breath).
  • If the fatty material breaks down (or ruptures), a blood clot can form, which can completely block the artery and lead to a heart attack.
  • Strokes occur if such ruptures happen in arteries in the brain, stopping the flow of blood.

Next: Who is at risk?