Heart of the matter: Feb'14

Publish date: 11/04/2014

Hello everyone our Heart of the matter live chat with Beverley Barnes and Caroline Exon has now started.

Anonymous287 asked: Hi - I frequently suffer from LHS chest pains, particularly in the morning or at night, when at rest - I've been wired up to ECG's on several occasions only to be told that 'im fine' - certainly when I have the pain it is alarming, as is the shooting pain I sometimes get down my left arm! Can you offer any insight?

Beverley Barnes and Caroline Exon answered: Dear Anonymous. firstly to reassure you if you have had several ECG's any heart event that had occurred during these episodes of pain (that could have caused damage to the heart) would have shown up, even after the event. ECG's will only show damage after the episode, any future episodes that my occur can only be contributed to a potential heart condition if you have the ECG monitor on during the event. As the results did not show any event, this is a good sign. However as this is causing you some anxiety, I would recommend you return to your GP, to discuss all your symptoms in detail. Your GP then may wish to carry out further tests or refer you to a specialist. Unexpected pain is a warning that something may not be quite right and needs further investigation. I hope this information is of help. Caroline and Bev.

Anonymous288 asked: Does having blue tinge above and below mouth mean there might be cardiac problems?
Oxygen levels were tested but were normal an hr after discovering the blue colouring.

Beverley Barnes and Caroline Exon answered: Dear Anonymous in order to answer your question, please could you confirm if this relates to a child or adult. Kind Regards Caroline and Bev


If you missed our live chat and have any further questions relating to heart matters, then why not ask our panel of experts a question?


Lynne asked: Hi, I have a small lung shunt & was wondering if this could be affecting my ability to exercise?
Thanks, Lynne.

Beverley Barnes and Caroline Exon answered: Hi Lynne, We believe you are referring to specific condition affecting the inner structure of the lungs. During any exercise, the more strenuous the exercise the more this will increase your heart rate, which in turn will stimulate your lungs to take in more oxygen. Having a pulmonary/lung shunt  will make this increased demand a little more difficult to fulfil. You might find you get tired quickly, however exercise is good for your body. You might need to look at the type of exercise you are undertaking and discuss this with your GP, prior to starting any strenuous exercise plan. For example you could consider low impact exercise (e.g walking/pilates/yoga) which would not put excess strain on your lung function. we hope this information has been of use. Caroline and Bev.

Julian50 asked: Are eggs bad for cholesterol? I am taking medication to control my cholesterol.
Thank you, Julian.

Beverley Barnes and Caroline Exon answered: Hi Julian, according to the British Heart Foundation, the following information may help you 'while too many fried eggs and cheesy omelettes may risk raising your cholesterol, it’s actually the added fat from the frying or the addition of cheese, which is high in saturated fat, that’s the problem. Poached, boiled or scrambled eggs (without butter) are all absolutely fine and there are no restrictions on how many we should eat as part of a balanced diet.
While the average Brit only eats about 2 to 3 eggs a week, our intake of saturated fat still exceeds the recommended maximums. The main cholesterol culprits are things like dairy products including full fat cheese or whole milk, fats like butter, lard and ghee, fatty cuts of meat or meat products and the skin on chicken. Products like biscuits, cakes and pastries can also be high in saturated fat too.
We can still enjoy these, but by choosing reduced fat options such as semi skimmed, skimmed or 1% milk, low fat yoghurts and reduced fat cheese as well as making sure we remove visible fat and skin from meat and poultry and reading food labels on ready-made products we can make healthier choices.
If you are worried about your cholesterol, cutting back on saturated fat is likely to make more of an impact on your diet than cutting back on the amount of eggs you eat. While the average Brit only eats about 2 to 3 eggs a week, our intake of saturated fat still exceeds the recommended maximums.
So, this latest story is all a bit of a storm in an egg cup really. The fact that eggs are lower in cholesterol now than they were previously is interesting. But it doesn’t make any difference to our advice – it’s still about how you cook your eggs, rather than how much cholesterol is in them.'
I hope the above information is of help. Caroline  and Bev.

Tony asked: Are there any foods i should avoid that may trigger my AF?

Beverley Barnes and Caroline Exon answered: Dear Tony, there are no foods that should trigger AF, however the following information may be of use from the Atrial Fibrillation Association.
The cause of AF is not fully understood and men and women are equally susceptible to the disease. It is also age related – the older you become the more likely you are to develop AF. However, it is noted that AF is more likely to occur in patients who have other heart conditions, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Mitral heart valve disease(caused by rheumatic heart disease, valve problems at birth, or infection)
  • Congenital heart disease (abnormality of the heart since birth)
    It can also be associated with:
  • Thyroid gland disorders
  • Pneumonia
  • Lung cancer and chest infections
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Alcohol or drug abuse or misuse

This is a fabulous supportive site for people who suffer from AF and there are lots of helpful guidance and testimonials from other suffers. Kind Regards Caroline and Bev

Ben asked: I am 58 and my BMI is slightly above what it should be. I had my last blood test around three years ago which showed borderline cholesterol level. When tired I have Palputations, should I be concerned?

Beverley Barnes and Caroline Exon answered: Dear Ben, further to your queries, firstly its never to late to reduce your BMI back to a normal range which is 25 or under. In respect to the borderline cholesterol level 3 yrs ago, I would recommend making a GP appointment to get this re-checked. Once you get the results you can then assess what life style changes you may need to make to keep your heart healthy. Exercise, even low impact exercise, such as walking can reduce your cholesterol and your BMI. I also suggest when you see your GP you advise him/her of the palpitations that you are experiencing. This can be an indication of a possible heart rhythm abnormality and it is therefore best to get this investigated. Some straight forward tests that your GP can perform can let you know your current health status and help you moving forward.  I hope this of use to you. Caroline and Bev

Anonymous289 asked: I am 34 and exercising at a high intensity on a regular basis, training for and competing in triathlons and running/cycling events. Although I feel fine, should I be getting regular checks to ensure my heart is coping ok with the workload?

Beverley Barnes and Caroline Exon answered: Dear anonymous, well done you for undertaking all this exercise and I would expect that you have built up to this level of exercise through careful training, including warming up and warming down. The need for regular heart checks at your age would likely only be necessary if you have a family history of unexplained or early heart related conditions or you have been experiencing symptoms e.g palpitations, unexpected shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness or and fainting episodes. I hope this reassures you. Kind Regards Caroline and Bev

Anonymous290 asked: I am 54 years old, reasonably fit, slightly overweight.  I am active, row 2 or 3 times per week and work out in the gym approximately 1 x per week.  The gym equipment tells me my max heart rate should be about 165, and training heart rate about 145, but the equipment also tells me my heart is generally operating at about 175-185 bpm over extended (eg 40 min) sessions, rising above this (sometimes over 200) during interval training.  Is this a problem?  What is the healthiest way to train? 
Thanks for any guidance you can give. 

Beverley Barnes and Caroline Exon answered: Dear Anonymous290, its really good that you undertake all of this regular exercise. However the rate is a little higher than we would expect. I wonder how old the equipment is that you are using? If it is new and or regularly checked, I would suggest that you ask the gym staff if anyone else is experiencing any issues with it. If the answer is no, then we do recommend you seek advise from your gp to ensure all is well. Then once you have the all clear from your GP, talk to the qualified gym staff about your exercise goals and the healthiest way to achieve them. Some gyms even have physical training staff with an expertise in heart health. Kind Regards Caroline and Bev


If you missed our live chat and have any further questions relating to heart matters, then why not ask our panel of experts a question?


Anonymous291 asked: Hi there, I am a 44 year old mother, I keep reasonably fit running about twice a week (4 miles each time on average), yoga once a week and walk on days I'm not running. My Dad had a heart attack aged 42 and is the same blood type and physique as I am. I am 5'6" and weigh about 9stone 10 pounds. If I go out in cold weather with my coat undone around my neck or chest, I get pains in my chest, is this normal?  I also get pains if I suddenly run up a flight of stairs but not doing a long run. Don't want to be a time waster at the surgery. Thanks

Beverley Barnes and Caroline Exon answered: Dear Anonymous, its really good that you are fit and active. Exercise is good for the heart. The concern about your family history should be looked into and we do not think your GP would class you as a time waster with regards to your symptoms. Family history of heart disease can be  due to life style choices or heriditary pre-disposition, for example a family who enjoy a high fat diet are at a high risk of heart disease. However this is not the same as having a heriditary heart condition such as high cholesterol. In both cases there are risk factors to heart disease. Without knowing your fathers history it would be difficult to determine if you were at the same risk as him. We strongly recommend you book an appointment with your GP who can perform some simple tests which hopefully will reassure you. Should however the tests show any concerns, this can be investigated further and be treated. Kind Regards Caroline and Bev

Anonymous215 asked: My boyfriend suffers from high blood pressure and often gets a dangerously high heart rate during exercise which he has to watch carefully with a heart monitor. Recently, he has started to get a stabbing headache during / after exercise which can turn into a migraine... is it linked?

Beverley Barnes and Caroline Exon answered: Dear Anonymous215, whilst exercise is good for your heart, with the symptoms your boyfriend is experiencing it would seem to suggest that he needs to be seen by the GP prior to continuing with any strenuous exercise. Without knowing any other medical information about your boyfriend high blood pressure is a risk factor for strokes and heart disease. The benefits of the exercise would be lost if he is putting his health in jeopardy with this dangerous heart rate. headaches are linked with seriously high blood pressure. Sorry to concern you further, but please make sure he visits his gp soon. Kind Regards Caroline and Bev

Anonymous215 commented: Thank you both, I appreciate it's tricky without knowing his history. I keep nudging him to get back to a GP but think I need to give him more a shove now! Thanks again

Anonymous295 asked: Hello. I occasionally get a feeling of increased heart rate, or fluttering, usually when I am sitting still or lying down. It's most regular at night. Otherwise I am healthy - it's been happening for years. Should i get it checked out? It doesn't happen all the time so I worry that nothing would be detected anyway.

Beverley Barnes and Caroline Exon answered: Dear Anonymous295, generally your heart rate increases in response to exercise and increased physical activity. The fact that you are experiencing these symptoms are a little concerning given your otherwise good health. We wonder if you have ever seen your GP on this matter. Sometimes its known that people have a slight irregular heart beat that spontaneously returns to a normal heart rhythm, however we would suggest you get some GP advice as this seems to be happening quite regularly at night. So do get checked out. Kind Regards Caroline and Bev

AXA PPP healthcare: Thanks for all your questions today. Our next Live Chat is on March 12 around no smoking day. Join us from 2pm to 4pm. Goodbye.

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