Celebrating north Cumbria’s NHS heart service and how to keep your heart healthy

It is now ten years since we undertook the first procedure in Cumbria that gives immediate advanced care to patients having a heart attack.

For the last decade we have been able to insert stents as an emergency any time of day or night. This procedure removes the blockage that is causing a heart attack and keeps the blood vessel open. Before we had this intervention, patients were given ‘clot busting drugs’ which weren’t as effective and there was no access to advanced treatment.

We continue to provide this service for patients across north Cumbria at the heart centre at the Cumberland Infirmary and we have invested more than £3m to expand the services there.

Dr Louise Buchanan is a cardiology consultant at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust. Whilst she is exceptionally proud of all that the team in the heart centre has achieved, she is very keen to share some advice for everyone to look after their heart.

“Myself and the wider cardiology team are here for you if you needs us, but in all honestly we would rather we weren’t needed. There are some things that we can all do to reduce the risks of getting heart conditions. Most are simple but some do require lifestyle changes and this can be difficult. However, there is support out there to improve your heart health.

“Stop smoking: Smoking causes 15,000 heart and circulatory disease deaths every year [British Heart Foundation] and is the biggest contributor to heart attacks for those aged under 50. Research has shown giving up smoking is 3 times more likely to be successful if you use NHS support together with stop-smoking medicines, such as patches or gum.

“Reduce alcohol: Binge drinking has been shown to increase the risk of heart attacks. The recommended alcohol allowance is 14 units a week spread over a few days with some days completely alcohol free.

“Keep a healthy weight: Being overweight or underweight increases the pressure on the heart and therefore your risk of developing a heart attack.

“Eat healthy foods: For a healthy heart a low-fat, high-fibre diet is recommended, which should include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (5 portions a day) and whole grains. Salt intake should be no more than 1 teaspoon a day and sugary foods should be limited.

“Exercise: Combining a healthy diet with regular exercise is the best way of maintaining a healthy weight. Having a healthy weight reduces your chances of developing high blood pressure (which increases the risk of a heart attack).

“Get regular health check-ups and manage your conditions: Regular check-ups through your GP will flag any signs of high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes among other conditions. If you are diagnosed with a long term condition it is important to understand how to best control it and to take any medication regularly and as prescribed. If you don’t the risk of heart attacks increases significantly.

“These really are top tips to keep your heart healthy and although difficult for some people there are a range of things which can help. The NHS Better Health app and website have many interactive tools to help with all of these but if you don’t know where to go for advice, your GP is always a good place to start.”


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