Healthy hearts

By choosing a healthy lifestyle, you can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Here you can find out more about how to keep your heart healthy.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) means conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels.

It’s usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries – known as atherosclerosis – and an increased risk of blood clots. It can also lead to damage to arteries in organs like the brain, heart, kidneys and eyes.

The three main conditions are:

  • Coronary heart disease (which can cause angina or heart attack)
  • Stroke
  • Peripheral arterial (or vascular) disease (narrowing of the arteries)

CVD is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK. In South Tyneside, more than 24,000 people are affected by high blood pressure (hypertension) – a leading cause of heart disease and stroke, while more than 3,600 have an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation).

In 2017/2018, 201 people in South Tyneside were admitted to hospital with a stroke. Unfortunately, many more people are at risk and may not know it.

How to reduce your risk

The exact cause of CVD isn’t clear, but there are many things that can increase your risk.

Some risk factors can’t be changed – for example, the risks of CVD increase as you get older, or if a close relative had a heart attack or stroke before the age of 55 (for men) or 65 (for women).

The good news is that many risk factors can be changed, treated or controlled by leading a healthy lifestyle.

They include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight or obese, being inactive and diabetes.

Services to help you

Smoking: Stopping smoking is the most helpful thing you can do to improve your health and the health of people around you. Every year more and more people quit smoking, and enjoy the better health, wealth, lifestyle and life expectancy this can bring. Find out about help to stop smoking in South Tyneside here

Overweight: Maintaining a healthy weight helps to lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and certain cancers. Small, realistic changes to your diet can have an important positive effect. Find out about healthy weight options in South Tyneside here

Inactivity: A little more exercise can help reduce your CVD risk factors – and it’s good for your mental health too.

Physical activity is anything that gets you moving – it can be simple things like walking, cycling, gardening or even housework. Find out about physical activity options in South Tyneside here

High blood pressure / high cholesterol / diabetes: Please visit your GP practice if you have concerns about high blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes, and accept any invitation you receive for the NHS Health Check and NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.

The NHS Health Check is for adults aged 40-74. It’s designed to spot the early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes or dementia. You can expect to receive a text or letter from your GP inviting you for a free NHS Health Check every five years, if you are in the 40-74 age group without a pre-existing condition. Find out about NHS Health Checks here

Type 2 diabetes is a serious health condition, but there are lots of things you can do to reduce your risk or even stop you getting it. If you are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes you may be eligible for the Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.

This free service can help you make positive changes to your diet, weight and level of physical activity, to reduce your risk of diabetes-related health problems. The service is for adults aged 18 or over who have high glucose levels. Find out about the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme here

Tackling CVD in South Tyneside

Here in South Tyneside, we are working with health providers and public health services on a range of projects to tackle CVD. For example, we are:

  • Introducing new ways to assess heart rate and rhythm, using the AliveCor mobile device in GP practices and community pharmacies. We are also running a pilot scheme with Tyne & Wear Fire and Rescue Service
  • Working to ensure that atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) is correctly diagnosed
  • Working to ensure that people diagnosed with atrial fibrillation are on appropriate medication
  • Encouraging people to attend their NHS Health Check invitation
  • Promoting support services to reduce risk factors – such as smoking cessation, healthy weight and physical activity services