British Heart Foundation

Things that "cause" heart disease

Whilst I've never been diagnosed with any sort of heart disease, my husband has suffered a major heart attack, and, 15 months on, he's now able to play golf again - a major thing for him, believe me! During the various times he's spent in hospital, I've met numerous other patients with various different heart conditions, and now, having read many posts on this excellent forum, I've come to the conclusion that it's time to revise the list of things that apparently "cause" heart disease. After his heart attack, my husband spent time on a ward with four other men. One was in his mid-fifties, and had been receiving treatment for a heart condition since his early twenties. He was lithe and slim, and looked the picture of health, and then he told me he was waiting on a replacement monitoring device (not quite sure what it was), as the one they'd fitted recently had gone wrong. His chest was an embroidery of surgery scars, bless him. The gentleman in the bed opposite was fairly short, not as slim but certainly not overweight, and he was recovering from a bypass operation. He'd only been diagnosed fairly recently. I'd say that he, too, was in his mid fifties. There was a young man in the end bed, very tall, very slim, who was being monitored because of a heart murmur. He wasn't yet 30. And finally, there was Geoff in the bed next to my husband. He was 70, again slim, and a very active man, being a former professional cricketer, and again looked the picture of health. He'd had a heart attack, although not of the same degree as my husband. My husband is a big man, and an ex-smoker, but drinks very little (he was a coach driver). He's 65, and I think that some people would instantly make an assumption about his lifestyle: "he obviously eats far too much/he must drink loads of beer/bet he smokes like a chimney/obviously he doesn't do any exercise". I suspect that some doctors would make assumptions about his lifestyle, too, but the truth is that he underwent radiotherapy eighteen months ago for male breast cancer, and his consultant, after he had the heart attack, is convinced that this is what brought it on. One contributor to this forum stated that she had been trying very hard to lose weight, and whilst she was doing that, she had a stroke - this, too, seems to go against what are popularly-held beliefs - this lady was doing the "right" thing, apparently, but still had a stroke. She also states that she feels that stress played a part, and I think that this may well be a far larger factor than is generally believed. Stress can also promote weight gain, even if you eat lettuce all day every day. My great aunt was a slip of a lady, never more than eight and a half stone in weight, never gained or lost weight apparently, and was always a very active soul, yet she suffered a massive stroke when she was 87, which completely changed her life. She ultimately lived to be 97, but was never able to go back to her normal life. I really think that the time has come to take a much more in-depth look at apparent "causes" of heart disease, as the "typical" victim - overweight, never exercises, smokes and drinks - doesn't actually seem to exist.....Just my own thoughts and observations, of course.

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Hello Hollysmum,

I would have to agree with your observations, I have met many people post my heart attack and bypass, one lady who is 62, never smoked, hardly eats red meat doesn't drink tea or coffee. Another guy same age, smokes, even after, drinks as well and very overweight. Others I have met included a guy who ran marathons, suddenly hedge cutting caused a heart attack. My work doctors tried to tell m that the 14 hour days, endlessly being in contact with the office whilst on holiday, while may have caused stress, were certainly not contributors to my illness!

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Indeed, skid!!! I suspect that stress is very much involved - 14 hour days and never really having a break from your office - I'd say that's stressful too! Yet we are all under a great deal of pressure to "perform", aren't we? I don't think that stress is at all well researched, and is still sneered at to a degree, but it really shouldn't be. I wish you very well and thank you for your reply.

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I don't know if I am 'the lady' mentioned above (very appreciative of being called a lady) but I had lost 3 stone prior to the angiogram (on slimming world) and 4 days later had a stroke. Paramedics called as I was at work but they didn't take me to hospital as they didn't believe I had a stroke. I was working in Coventry at the time although I live in S. Wales. The next day my balance etc was still causing problems so my sister, husband and niece came and collected me and car and took me to a hospital in S.Wales. I spent the night ON a bed at the back of A & E and it took 3 days before I was diagnosed with a stroke after an MRI and taken to a stroke hospital.

All that said I was extremely lucky as I had been taking an Asprin daily which I think helped limit the damage. The hospital would not associate the stroke with the angiogram as it was 4 days later - I disagree.

Looking back I was a classic case, I was overweight and did little exercise, my dad died at 52 with heart failure, I was diabetic and although I stopped smoking back in 2003 I was an ex smoker.

Due to the position of the blockage it was decided that my only option was a bypass, at 59 this was a shock but it could have been so much worse.

I have put on 1 of the 3 stone but intend to start back on the diet and hope to lose 3 more stone which should be a total of 5 stone. I know I can do it but want to incorporate exercise into my 'plan'.

We cannot plan for every eventuality and who knows what the future holds but we can make sure the odds are more in our favour.

I am looking forward to looking and feeling better, yes, the stroke did set me back with my enthusiasm but a lot of money has been spent on giving me a better chance I feel it would be wrong if I didn't at least try and do my part - after all, it is more than my dad had,

Good luck all, onwards and upwards.

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You have a plan and targets which I think is half the battle. Well done you

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I am very slim exercised at the gym 3 times a week, walked everywhere with my Guide Dog and ate healthily. I never suffered from high blood pressure, my cholesterol is below 4. The only downfall is I have had Type 1 diabetes since I was a child. This is what caused my heart disease. No matter what I did to remain healthy and control blood sugar it still shocked me because I did everything I could. However, I found the following comment funny from a Cardio nurse, who told me diabetes can be avoided. I wish lol

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Yes, Heather, you were "the lady" I referred to, and I don't doubt that you are! I totally agree that we all have a responsibility towards ourselves, it can't all be down to our wonderful healthcare professionals. My husband had a rare reaction to an angiogram, too - they put the "tube" in via a vein in his left leg, and three days later, his leg started to go black - very scary! He was readmitted to hospital, and spent another week there whilst they sorted him out. I do wish that our suggestions about what might have caused something weren't sometimes dismissed out of hand - in your opinion, the angiogram was the one big thing that had happened to you in the recent past, and who's to say what reaction your body might or might not have as a result? You sound as though you are making an incredible recovery from your stroke, and I don't doubt that you will be shedding stones again before you know it!

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I to totally agree. I was in hospital over a month and not one patient I met was overweight. Heart disease or genetic heart problems can happen to anyone. So a new better informed message should be that heart problems can affect anyone at any age.

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I also totally agree with that, I have heart failure and weighing in at 8 stone 4lbs which I have been for 40 years, weight is not always the problem

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It's been lovely to see the responses to my initial post - I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who has been thinking this way. My husband is acutely aware of his size, as he's reminded of it every time he goes for a check up (like he hasn't noticed it!!), but really, he is not a glutton, and he would absolutely love to be able to do far more, physically, than he is able to. He still gets out of breath quite quickly, with not a lot of effort, and his poor arthritic knees don't help in that department either. However, he's generally very positive, and very glad to still be here, so he's persevering with trying to shed some pounds.

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Hi everyone - what a lively discussion! The role of stress in heart disease is definitely something we're looking at, but we don't yet understand fully how it affects people. It's actually really tough to do this sort of research as you can imagine, but one of our professors is on the case! You can read a little more about Prof Andrew Steptoe's research here: bhf.org.uk/research/our-top...

Thanks, Chris

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