The heart is a hard working organ and like every other organ, it needs oxygen rich blood too!
Special blood vessels called coronary arteries supply blood directly to the heart muscle to keep it pumping.
Sometimes a fatty plaque – that’s a kind of gunk – builds up on the inside of the coronary arteries, which leads to them becoming narrower and hardening.
This is called Atherosclerosis or Coronary Heart Disease. It can take years to develop and so may be undetected for a long time.
How does it happen?
When you eat fatty foods, like burgers, pizza and cakes the fat is carried around your bloodstream with all the other nutrients. If there’s too much fat, it begins to stick as a gunky coating to the walls of the arteries.
It’s a bit like when the pipes in the sink get clogged up – the water can’t run down as fast.
Narrowed arteries can leave the heart muscle short of oxygen, which can lead to angina.
What is angina?
Angina is a pain or tightness felt in the chest, arm, jaw, neck or stomach, and usually is worse when sufferers try to do something energetic.
If an artery becomes completely blocked, part of the heart muscle becomes starved of oxygen . this is a heart attack.
This can lead to cardiac arrest which is where your heart completely stops beating.
Will I get a heart attack?
Now don’t worry, you can’t catch a heart attack, and it’s not something that normally affects children. It’s almost always caused by damage that’s built up over years.
The good news is that 80 percent of cases can be prevented and if you look after your heart you’ll increase your chances of staying healthy when you’re a grown up.
How can I look after my heart?
It’s pretty simple to take good care of your heart. Not smoking, watching how much fat you eat and eating a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables will help keep your blood healthy.
As the heart is a muscle make it a good strong one with stacks of exercise – play lots of sport and games with your friends. The more you work it the stronger it will be.
Because heart disease can develop over a long time, sometimes there are warning signs, like chest pains, which can help people to tackle the problem before it becomes more serious.
Doctors can use an Electro Cardiogram to try and detect signs.
What’s an Electro Cardiogram?
You’d probably recognise it as the machine in hospitals that makes a beep beep sounds.
It’s a machine that doctors use to check how well the heart is beating and is a helpful way to spot problems.
If someone’s worried they might have heart trouble, it’s just one way to find out more.
Professor Hallux’s Heart Beat funding thanks to a Heart Research UK healthy heart grant!