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The remarkable advancement of treatments for congenital heart conditions mean that we now see CHD patients marching into middle age and beyond.

But it can be hard managing the ups and downs of living with a heart condition; especially when you get older.

Many CHD patients acquire other heart-related conditions which are common amongst older people in the general population. Some acquired conditions are related to lifestyle, such as diet, smoking and exercise, so now may be the time to make some resolutions.

Whether you are struggling with matters related to living with a congenital heart condition, or other life issues, we’re here to help.

Whether you engage with our community every day, or just the once, you know we are here. Just in case you need us.

Make the world better for the next generation.

Leave a gift in your will and improve the lives of congenital heart patients.

To find out more, talk to your solicitor, contact us, or give us a call on 01473 252007.

We build lasting friendships  

Across the year we organise a number of social events, weekends away and conferences. These events can be a great opportunity to meet with other people born with a heart condition, share experiences, get support and make friends. We also hold specific events for our younger members so they can connect with each other.


Join The Somerville Foundation private group on Facebook to chat with other young people and adults born with a heart condition.


Upcoming Events

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Meetup Groups

Discover local Meetups and connect with like-minded people of a similar age.


Common issues faced by older CHD patients

  • Palpitations or Arrhythmias. CHD patients have always been more prone to rhythm problems. Getting older also makes certain rhythm disturbances more common.
  • Thyroid conditions. As you get older, your thyroid can become under or overactive. Both an over and underactive thyroid can have a profound effect on the heart, irrespective of any underlying condition.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension).  As we all get older, the aorta and other arteries get stiffer and less compliant. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to strokes, heart attacks and heart failure, so treating it early is important.
  • Atherosclerosis. So-called “hardening” of the arteries is related to the buildup of cholesterol fats and calcium in the walls of arteries. In time, especially in small arteries, narrowing can occur, which can lead to “acquired” problems of the heart, brain, kidney and limbs.
  • Coronary arteries. As a CHD patient gets older, so the chances of angina developing are increased.
  • Heart Attack or Myocardial Infarction (MI). When a CHD patient goes to A&E with chest pain, they will get an ECG. As such, it is really helpful if you take a copy of a previous ECG for the doctors to compare. Even if the result is normal and you are sent home, it is worth letting your CHD liaison nurse know about the symptoms and the admission as there may be other reasons for your chest pain.
  • Female Menopause. Menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman’s oestrogen levels decline. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51. Read More.
  • Male Menopause. Some men develop depression, loss of sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and other physical and emotional symptoms when they reach their late 40s to early 50s. Read More.
  • Peripheral Vascular Disease. Narrowing of the arteries in the legs may produce pain in the leg muscles when you walk, which is provoked by exercise and relieved by rest. Smoking and diabetes are particular causes.
  • Erectile Dysfunction. Not being able to get or maintain an erection is sometimes related to atheroma (swelling) in the arteries to the penis. If you think this might be affecting you, speak to your GP or CHD team as there may be other medications you can try.
  • Stroke or Cerebrovascular Disease (CVA). A stroke occurs if there is an interruption of the blood supply to the brain. This may be due to a narrowing of the carotid arteries or other main branches or a clot from atrial fibrillation, for example. Other times it can be due to a bleed.
  • Gout. The primary symptom of gout is an incredibly painful and red joint due to tiny needle-like uric acid crystals. It usually affects the big toe but other joints as well.
  • Heart Failure. There are many causes of heart failure and having certain types of congenital heart defects may mean that the ventricle(s) have always been less effective and that diuretics are needed.
  • Waterworks. As you get older, CHD patients may have kidney abnormalities as part of their congenital condition.
  • Obesity. One of the most important things you can do for yourself in middle and older age is to keep the weight off. Being too heavy for your joints puts a strain on your heart and lungs and increases your risk of developing Diabetes.

Find out more about these conditions and available treatments

Coping with tough times?

We all need support now and again. Here are some ideas to help you to support yourself through those times:

  • Phone a friend. It’s good to share. Try not to bottle things up. Talk to a sympathetic friend, family member, counsellor, or phone our free heart helpline on 0800 854 759.
  • It helps to talk to others who have had similar experiences. Go online, blog, get support from The Somerville Foundation Message Board, join us on Facebook and come to our events.
  • Do things you enjoy and help you to feel better. Listen to your favourite music, watch TV, play games, read, go for a walk, hug a tree, stroke the dog, go out.   
  • Express yourself. Write it down, start a journal, write a poem or a song, scribble, paint, draw or dance. Don’t worry about artistic merit; it’s about ‘getting it out’.
  • Be prepared. If you know that there are times when you might feel down, angry, upset, tense, it can be useful to write a list of things that you can do and people you can call.
  • Make a ‘comfort box’ or scrapbook for yourself and put in photos, images, sayings, chocolate. Anything that you can focus on when the going gets tough.
  • Do things to help you de-stress. Relax in a warm bath, imagine yourself in a safe and comforting place, look at something peaceful or beautiful. When you feel anxious or panicky, it can help to practice calm breathing and relaxation techniques.
  • Remind yourself that feelings do pass and change over time , so hold in there and focus on getting through the day. Sit it out, wrap up in a duvet, sleep.
  • Avoid using drugs and alcohol when emotional. These can intensify feelings, affect your judgement and may lead you to feel worse.
  • Give yourself a break. Sometimes we can be hard on ourselves, expect too much or overdo it. It’s usual to have ups and downs in mood in response to what is happening in our lives. Treat yourself with kindness.
  • If you are going into hospital think about what you can take in that will help you pass the time and distract you from unpleasant procedures and tests.

Call our free heart helpline for confidential heart-to-heart support.
0800 854 759

How to include us in your will

To include The Somerville Foundation in an existing will, talk to your solicitor about adding a ‘codicil’. This allows you to make a change without the hassle of writing a completely new document.

If you don’t yet have a will, we can put you in touch with a solicitor to help you write one. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can also provide useful information and advice and The Law Society has information on writing a will and finding a solicitor.

Why leave a gift to The Somerville Foundation?

Because we need you to!

  • The income we have already received from gifts in wills has enabled us to continue our work. A gift in your will will help us do the same
  • Your gift will help us to fund new and improved treatments for congenital heart defects
  • Your gift allows you to give something back to the heart community
  • A gift in your will to a registered charity like The Somerville Foundation is exempt from Inheritance Tax (40%). This could reduce the tax burden on your estate.

Your contribution – large or small – makes an incredible difference to people’s lives.

Find out more about leaving a lasting legacy.

How can you help us?


With your help, we’ve helped fund new and improved treatments for congenital heart disease. we opened the UK’s first dedicated Congenital Heart Research Centre. we’ve organised receptions at the House of Lords and House of Commons, a film première, concerts, parachute jumps, marathon runs, annual sponsored walks and masquerade balls. we ensure that adult CHD patients enjoy access to every opportunity, are free from discrimination, and are fully supported throughout their lives. we’ve staged annual conferences, regional patient information days and workshops throughout the UK. we’ve published a range of leaflets for CHD patients on a wide-range of topics. we’ve launched a Freephone patient helpline to provide practical advice, a listening ear, and emotional reassurance at times of stress. we’ve created online networks where congenital heart patients can connect with each other. we successfully applied for a Comic Relief grant to help develop mental health support services. we’ve contributed to adult congenital heart disease nurse training days and taken part in various study days and conferences for medical and health professionals. we’ve established a benevolent fund for members who are in financial hardship. we’ve organised residential weekends and outward bound holidays for teenagers and adults, providing congenital heart patients with the opportunity to meet and gain support from each other.

Just think what else we could do if you donate, fundraise or volunteer for us.


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