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Saturday, 8 February, 2003, 15:48 GMT
Heart disease
Overweight Americans
Obesity is one of the major risk factors for heart disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the UK. In 1991, 93,000 men and 78,000 women died from heart disease, which includes angina and heart attacks. A quarter of those who died were under 65.

A heart attack is caused by the heart being deprived of oxygen because of a blockage. Without oxygen, the heart begins to shut down. Heart attacks can vary in severity, but permanent damage can be avoided by prompt hospital treatment.

What are the main symptoms of a heart attack?

  • Uncomfortable pressure or a squeezing sensation in the chest which lasts for more than a few minutes.
  • Pain in the shoulders, neck and arms. Can also be in the chest, upper abdomen, neck, jaw and inside arms.
  • Feeling of dizziness and nausea; shortness of breath and sweating.
  • Anxiety; cold, sweaty skin.
  • Pallor.
  • Irregular or increased heart rate.

What to do if someone appears to have had a cardiac arrest?

  • Call an ambulance immediately.
  • Check whether the patient is conscious or not and place them flat on their back. Kneel beside them and put one hand on their forehead and the other on their chin. Tilt their head back, lift their chin until their teeth almost touch. Look and listen for signs of breathing.
  • If the person is not breathing normally, pinch their nose and cover their mouth with yours. Give two full breaths. The person's chest should rise as a result.
  • Check the person's pulse by putting your fingers on their neck, next to their Adam's apple and windpipe.
  • If there is no pulse, put your hands on the centre of the person's chest at the height of their nipples. Put one hand on top of the other.
  • Push down two inches on their chest 15 times. Continue with the two breaths and 15 pumps until an ambulance arrives.

What are the main risk factors for heart disease

  • Family history of heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

Some of the risk factors cannot be avoided, but others can be reduced, for example, by stopping smoking, reducing stress, eating healthily - avoiding foods that are high in fat - and taking regular exercise.

Some experts believe that chewing aspirin each day is an effective way to reduce the risk of heart disease.

This page contains basic information. If you are concerned about your health, you should consult a doctor.

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