To be told you have “heart disease” can strike fear into anyone hearing it for the first time, however it’s not as bad as it sounds. In this article I am going to explain some of the terms, causes and remedies associated with a very common problem.
What is Heart disease, well put simply it is a general term used to describe several different conditions, all of which are potentially fatal, but are also treatable and/or preventable. The condition is primarily a disease of lifestyle, and is largely preventable through risk factor awareness and modification.
However it is a serious condition and if heart problem symptoms are ignored it is a major cause for heart attacks (myocardial infarction), congestive heart failure, angina pectoris, stroke, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), and ischemia (reduced blood flow). The most common form is coronary heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease
Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease, it is caused by a narrowing or clogging of the coronary arteries that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients. Coronary artery disease and the resulting reduced blood flow to the heart muscle can lead to other heart problems, such as chest pain (angina) and heart attacks (myocardial infarction). The risk of coronary heart disease can be reduced by taking steps to prevent and control those adverse factors that put people at greater risk for heart disease and heart attacks.
If you have too much cholesterol in your bloodstream, the excess is deposited in arteries, including the coronary arteries, where it contributes to the narrowing and blockages that cause the signs and symptoms of heart disease.
High levels of the wrong type of cholesterol (LDL) can be life threatening especially because this type of cholesterol has the capability to choke the arteries and thus cause a heart attack.
What happens is that the levels of the lipoprotein, which is made in the liver and in cells lining blood vessels, rise with things that make heart disease more likely, like smoking, obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes. Conversely the levels fall when patients stop smoking, lose weight and get their cholesterol and diabetes under control.
Cholesterol levels should be less than 5.5. If your cholesterol level is 6.5 mmol/L or greater your risk of heart disease is about 4 times greater than that of a person with a cholesterol level of 4 mmol/L.
The best defense against high cholesterol is simply controlling the risk factors that could lead to coronary artery disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, stress, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and being overweight. Regular aerobic activities have a good effect on blood vessels and cholesterol.
Dietary aids to lowering cholesterol
o reduce cheese intake and/or substitute low fat varieties
o choose reduced fat milks
o substitute polyunsaturated margarine for butter
o choose lean cuts of meat and remove all visible fat
o eat skinless chicken, fish or beans
o beware of pies, pasties, fish and chips and commercial cakes (hidden fat)
o make cakes at home with polyunsaturated fat, cook chips with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oil
o lose weight if overweight.
High blood pressure also causes many other types of cardiovascular disease, such as stroke and heart failure.
Coronary artery diseases are diseases of the arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood. If you suffer from CAD it generally means that blood flow through the coronary arteries has become obstructed, reducing blood flow to the heart muscle.
Like any muscle, the heart needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients, which are carried to it by the blood in the coronary arteries. When the coronary arteries become narrowed or clogged by cholesterol and fat deposits (atherosclerosis), the heart cannot get enough and the result is coronary heart disease (CHD).
Other cardiovascular diseases include stroke, high blood pressure, angina (chest pain), and rheumatic heart disease. Smoking and uncontrolled high blood pressure are important risk factors for stroke.
Although stroke is highly preventable, certain risk factors such as; family history, age, sex and race can’t be controlled. People with diabetes are also two to four times more likely to die of heart disease and experience stroke.
Although heart disease is a serious condition that requires constant monitoring, there are many things you can do to reduce your risk for cardiovascular problems and live a full, active life, even if you should suffer a heart attack.
Study results indicate that heart disease is almost twice as likely to develop in inactive people as in those who exercise regularly. However studies have also shown that after five years of giving up smoking, the risk of developing heart disease is the same as for someone who never smoked.
As well, if you exercise on a regular basis, the chance of your developing heart disease is about half that of people who do no exercise at all.
By Dick Aronson