NHS Health Check

Helping you prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and dementia

Heart disease

Heart disease is one of the main vascular diseases

In coronary heart disease, the arteries that supply blood to the heart become blocked. This blockage is usually caused when fatty deposits that are carried in the blood stick to the walls of the arteries, causing them to become narrower.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the UK's biggest killer, causing around 82,000 deaths each year. About one in five men and one in eight women die from the disease.  

Diseases of the arteries, such as heart disease, are called vascular diseases. We all have some risk of developing heart disease.

In your NHS Health Check, your risk of developing heart disease and other vascular diseases will be assessed. You will then be given personalised advice and support in order to help you reduce that risk.

What happens in heart disease?

Blood carries oxygen and nutrients around our bodies. All our organs need a constant supply of blood in order to work properly.

When the arteries that supplies blood to your heart become partially blocked, your heart doesn't get all the blood it needs. The more blocked the arteries become, the less blood your heart gets.

The first signs of heart disease are typically symptoms such as:

  • chest pain
  • breathlessness
  • heart palpitations

If the artery becomes totally blocked, or if it ruptures, this can cause a heart attack. Heart attacks can cause permanent damage to the heart muscle, and, if not treated straight away, can be fatal.

Learn more in Coronary heart disease.

Avoiding heart disease

Some risk factors that make heart disease more likely are things we can't change about ourselves. You're more likely to develop heart disease if:

  • you have diabetes
  • you have a family history of heart disease – the risk is increased if you have a male relative with CHD under 55 or a female relative under 65  

But other risk factors are things we can change. You're more likely to develop heart disease if:

You can learn more about preventing coronary heart disease.

Take action

At an NHS Health Check you will have a discussion with your GP (or another health professional). This will include a discussion of the test results that are relevant to your risk of heart disease, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index (BMI).

Your GP will provide information and advice on how to maintain or improve your health, which will help to lower your risk of heart disease and other vascular diseases. If necessary, you'll be offered medicines that will help, or given NHS support to help you lose weight or stop smoking.

Learn more in NHS Health Check: take action.

Page last reviewed: 15/05/2013

Next review due: 15/05/2015


The 2 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

cazzaone said on 04 January 2010

I agree with doctor2010 - my mother died aged 66 from an evolving heart attack lasting 24 hours, which in turn led to a ruptured myocardial infarct and then haemopericardium, which were complications of the heart attack. My mother saw the same doctor twice in the 24 hours before she died, and he didnt diagnose her heart attack, even thought she complained of upper back pain and pain behind her chest

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doctor2010 said on 01 June 2009

This article states that "If the artery becomes totally blocked, or if it ruptures, this can cause a heart attack." It should be noted that neither blockage of a coronary artery nor rupture of a plaque is a requisite of a "heart attack." Chronic high-grade stenosis predisposes to myocardial ischaemia which can cause myocardial infarction and arrhythmias, leading to a "heart attack" or sudden death.

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Coronary heart disease (CHD)

Coronary heart disease (CHD) causes heart attacks and is the UK’s biggest killer. But by no means all heart attacks are fatal, and there's plenty you can do to avoid having one.

Media last reviewed: 21/10/2013

Next review due: 21/10/2015

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