Heart disease - at any age

Heart disease affects millions of women in the UK. Heart attacks kill an average of more than 70 women every day. Behind these numbers are real people living their lives with heart disease. 

19

Bethan Collings

Bethan was 12 when her usually fit and healthy dad David had a heart attack. He was just 43. She didn’t know at the time but this shocking event was the start of a journey of discovery about her own health. Within months her dad found out the cause of his heart disease was a genetic condition called Familial Hypercholesterolaemia, which led to very high cholesterol levels from birth.

The family were tested. Bethan also had the condition. After the initial shock, Bethan says she welcomes the fact that she discovered she has FH so early in life. Now on statins to lower her cholesterol, she should have the same health outlook as any other teenager.

32

Emma Jayne Chamberlain

At 16 Emma Jayne was diagnosed with a heart condition that could have caused her heart to stop beating. She had never heard the term, but her condition, known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, can cause the heart muscle to thicken, sometimes leading to a dangerous heart rhythm and even sudden death. When she was 30 she blacked out at the florist where she was working. Because she was considered at high risk of a cardiac arrest, she now has an ICD, a tiny internal defibrillator that will restart her heart if it goes into a life threatening rhythm. Emma Jayne calls it her internal life insurance.

41

Kitty Buchanan-Gregory

Kitty is super-sporty – she has run marathons and rowed as part of an eight. But throughout her thirties she had episodes of feeling dizzy and even passing out. A magazine article about a woman with similar symptoms prompted her to ask her doctor for a 24-hour ECG. They found her heart had paused 80 times in the previous 24 hours.

She was admitted for an emergency procedure to fit a pacemaker. Kitty’s condition was third degree or 'complete' heart block, which causes her heart to pause and then re-start spontaneously. But she hasn’t let it stop her. She ran the London Marathon on the first anniversary of getting, 'Percy the pacemaker', and she has taken on sports challenges with the all-female endurance group, The Sisterhood.

54

Jill Pugh

At the age of 50 Jill was walking the Great Wall of China when she began to feel she could hardly breathe, or put one foot in front of another. On her return home she was diagnosed with a rare heart condition.

The two main arteries leaving her heart were the wrong way round, but this was ‘corrected’ by the fact that the lower chambers of her heart were also swapped around. She needed medication and a pacemaker. She was told that without a heart transplant she didn't have long to live. But a new pacemaker in 2014 improved her condition and Jill is looking forward to many more years with her family.

69

Maureen Hennis

Maureen’s first heart attack happened when she was the busy chief exec of a charity called Pets as Therapy. Working for three days at Crufts dog show she felt her chest getting tight., and had excruciating pain across her chest, down both arms and hands. In hospital she was diagnosed with a heart attack and treated with two stents to re-open blocked coronary arteries.

Eight years later she recognised her previous symptoms, and went straight to her GP. Tests showed another coronary artery was blocked, but by acting fast she managed to avoid a second heart attack.

Today

There is still more to do

For over 55 years we've pioneered research that has transformed the lives of people living with heart and circulatory conditions. Since we were established the annual number of deaths from CVD in the UK has fallen by half.

Heart disease affects women of all ages. We're spending £100,000,000 a year on research to find a cure. Find out how you can help.