Medical

Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke

Atrial Fibrillation

Over 37,000 people here are living with AF, and up to 10,000 may be living with it undetected.

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is a type of irregular heartbeat.

If you have AF, your heart will not have a regular beat and maybe abnormally fast. The heart may not empty its chambers of blood at each beat, so a clot could form in the blood left behind, which can then travel to the brain and cause a stroke.

A normal heart rate is usually anywhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute at rest, with a steady rhythm. Atrial fibrillation can make your risk of a stroke five times higher.

Learn more about AF here.

High Blood Pressure

If your blood pressure is consistently higher than it should be it is called high blood pressure (or hypertension).High blood pressure is not a disease in itself. However, it can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and strokes.Over the years high blood pressure slowly damages the blood vessels by making them narrower and more rigid.This means your heart has to work harder to push the blood through your blood vessels and the overall blood pressure rises. It is easier for clots to get caught and for fatty debris (atheroma) to block your blood vessels.

This is what happens in heart attacks and strokes. Learn more about high blood pressure here.

High Cholesterol

High cholesterol can increase your risk of developing heart disease, such as having a heart attack or stroke.

Cholesterol is a natural fatty substance found in your blood and it is essential for healthy functioning of the body. Cholesterol is made in the liver, but we also get cholesterol from the food we eat, in particular from high fat foods.

Too much cholesterol in the body can cause fatty deposits to build up in the arteries, increasing your risk of heart and stroke illnesses.

Cholesterol is carried in your blood by proteins and are known as lipoproteins when they combine together. There are two main types of cholesterol or lipoproteins.

‘Good’ cholesterol or High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL) that takes fat away from your artery walls

‘Bad’ cholesterol or Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL) that sticks to your artery walls and causes a fatty build up.

There is another type of fat called Triglycerides. This is a fatty substance found in our blood and its presence is linked to unhealthy lifestyles such as drinking too much alcohol or eating high fat and sugary food. Triglycerides can lead to the narrowing of the artery walls, increasing your risk of heart disease or stroke.

You can have a normal level of HDL and non-HDL cholesterol but still, have a high triglyceride level. Learn more about Cholesterol here.

Obesity

Being overweight and obese puts you at risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, all of which increase your risk of stroke too.

The best way of controlling your weight is through a balance of eating healthily and keeping as active as you can, sitting less and moving more. Unhealthy eating habits tend to run in families. You may learn bad eating habits from your parents when you're young and continue them into adulthood.

Children and adults are spending a lot of time sitting down, at desks, on the sofa watching screens or in cars. They are also eating and drinking too many high calorie foods and not exercising enough to burn off the excess calories.

One quarter of under ten-year olds are also overweight or obese in Northern Ireland and our young people are amongst the most inactive in the UK.

Learn more about Obesity & the factors that influence bodyweight here.

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