Crew Health Advice: Heart Disease


Keeping your heart healthy, whatever your age, is the most important thing you can do to help prevent and manage heart disease.

Heart disease and heart complications continue to be a regular cause of incidents notified to the Club.These incidents range across the full spectrum of heart health including but not limited to atrial fibrillation, angina, coronary artery disease, congestive  heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms and myocardial infarction (heart attack).

The Club has observed that a recent number of cases have involved younger seafarers. A recent incident involved a crew member in his mid-twenties repatriated due to Wolff-Parkinson White Syndrome, a relatively common disorder where an additional electrical connection leads to the heart beating abnormally fast, in an abnormal rhythm. This illness is present at birth(congenital), although symptoms may not develop until later in life.

Another case involved the death of a 35 year old crew member due to a suspected heart attack.The seafarer had a family and personal history of controlled hypertension (high blood pressure) and was classified as overweight but not obese.

The term 'heart disease' is often used interchangeably with the term 'cardiovascular disease'. Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as those that affect your heart's muscle, valves or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease

Healthy lifestyle choices can positively reduce the risk of getting heart disease, and for those at risk already, it can help to prevent deterioration of the condition.

Lifestyle factors

There are six main lifestyle factors that can increase the possibility of developing coronary heart disease:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Weight and body shape
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of physical activity

Ten rules for a healthier and longer life

1. Stop smoking

2. Eat a balanced diet

3. Check your body mass index (BMI) BMI = mass (kg) / height (m2)Normal 18.5 - 25kg/m2
Overweight   28 - 30 kg/m2
Obesity >30 kg/m2

4. Reduce alcohol intake

5. Try to sleep at least 7 hrs per night

6. Exercise at least 20 minutes a day

7. Learn to cope with stressful emotions

8. Maintain a healthy blood pressure

- 140/90 and above is considered hypertension (high blood pressure)

9. Maintain good sugar control, particularly if you are diabetic

10. If you have a medical condition, see your doctor at least once a year


Coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, heart attack - each type of heart problem requires different treatment  but may share similar warning signs:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations (irregular heartbeats, or a 'flip-flop' feeling in your chest)
  • Discomfort, pressure, heaviness, aching, or pain in the chest, arm, or below the breastbone
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Swelling of ankles and abdomen
  • Cough that produces white sputum

This advice was compiled with the help of Halcyon Marine Healthcare Systems; one of the Club's approved PEME clinics located in Makati, Philippines


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Staff Author