Killer diseases in Scotland

Research has shown that the majority of deaths in Scotland are caused by three serious health issues; these are heart disease, strokes and cancer.

Coronary Heart disease


Coronary heart disease is one of Scotland’s biggest killers, claiming over 10,000 lives each year; these figures are primarily associated with people over the age of 60, although the number of younger people affected by heart disease is rising.

Causes of heart disease

Heart disease can be caused by a number of factors; these include poor diet, lack of exercise, stress, heavy drinking and smoking; those with a family history of heart disease are also at greater risk of suffering from the condition in the future.

Symptoms of heart disease

The most common symptoms of coronary heart disease include heart attacks (myocardial infarctions), palpitations, irregular heartbeat, angina and heart failure.

Heart attacks: are commonly caused by a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries; this blocks the flow of blood to the heart causing it to spasm. Heart attacks can be extremely serious and potentially fatal; heart attacks should be treated as quickly as possible.

Heart palpitations and irregular heartbeat: often patients who suffer from palpitations experience a period of time where their heart appears to be racing and beating irregularly; this can be frightening and you should seek medical help as quickly as possible in order to bring your heart rate down.

Angina: angina usually presents as an acute pain which is felt in the chest area. Many people suffer from mild angina in old age; chronic angina can be extremely debilitating. Angina usually passes in time but can be eased by using a nitrate spray and resting.

Heart failure: this occurs when the heart muscle is simply too weak to continue pumping blood around the body; it can be gradual or rapid.

Preventing coronary heart disease

Choosing to live a healthy lifestyle can dramatically reduce the likelihood of suffering from coronary heart disease; this includes eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, exercising regularly and refraining from drinking heavily and smoking.

Diet: diet is one of the most important contributors to good general health. It is important to eat a variety of foods which are rich in different minerals, nutrients and vitamins in order to keep your body healthy. You should try to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day; it is also beneficial for the heart to eat wholegrain foods such as brown or granary bread, wholegrain rice and pasta and cereals rich in whole grains. You should eat saturated fats as little as possible; these foods are high in cholesterol which contributes to fat build-up in the arteries. Do not cut fat out of your diet but try to eat healthier unsaturated fats such as those found in nuts and avocadoes. You should take care to moderate the amount of processed and fried foods as these can be high in salt and saturated fats.

Exercise: regular cardiovascular exercise will keep your heart fit and healthy and also help to keep your muscles toned and your joints loose. Exercising regularly will drastically reduce the likelihood of you suffering from heart disease.

Lifestyle choices: both heavy drinking and smoking have been attributed as direct causes of coronary heart disease. Drinking and smoking put enormous pressure on the organs and cause changes in blood pressure and heart rate; this can be extremely dangerous especially if it continues over a long period of time. It is estimated that smoking contributes to 1 in 5 deaths resulting from heart disease. Drinking commonly causes high blood pressure, which often leads to heart attacks.