bhfFebruary is The British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) Heart Month. To support the BHF NHS Sutton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is raising awareness of the sudden devastation caused by inherited heart disease (IHD). Inherited heart disease is heartless and it can strike anyone at any time, shattering the lives of people it leaves behind.

According to the BHF, there are currently around 600,000 people in the UK living with an inherited heart condition. These conditions can affect people of any age and can be life threatening.    Common symptoms include dizziness, blackouts, heart palpitations and shortness of breath.  For most families, however, the first sign there is something wrong, is when someone dies unexpectedly.

If an inherited heart condition is detected, treatment may involve medication, surgery or lifestyle changes, including exercise, healthy eating, and quitting smoking.  People may also want to speak to the BHF’s Genetic Information Service (GIS) helpline nurses on 0300 456 8383, available Mon-Fri, from 09:00 – 17:00 (similar cost to 01 or 02 numbers).

During winter, when people with heart conditions are particularly at risk, it is also recommended to get a flu jab. According to the Office of National Statistics*, an extra 350 people will die each week from heart disease and strokes between December and March across England and Wales – equating to an extra 5,900 deaths linked with cardiovascular disease last year.  BHF associate medical director Dr Mike Knapton, said: “People with chronic heart disease are around 11 times more likely to die if they develop flu compared to healthy individuals.”

Whatever your age, or risk of IHD, keeping your heart as healthy as possible is the most important thing you can do to help prevent and manage heart disease.

In just three years (2012-14), over 1,985 Sutton residents aged between 0-90+ years died from cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, and stroke**.

NHS Sutton CCG Chair and local GP, Dr Brendan Hudson said: “These conditions can strike people of all ages. That’s why we are urging all our residents to use the British Heart Foundation’s annual Heart Month during February to show their hearts some love, by getting a flu jab, eating healthily, taking regular exercise, stopping smoking, and cutting down on alcohol and stress.”

In Sutton, local residents can access support with achieving a heart healthy lifestyle from the local authority or by using the Health Help Now website and free mobile phone app to find local services.

Further information and resources to improve heart health are available from the British Heart Foundation website.