HEART HEALTHThe Fight Against Heart Disease
The Cardiovascular System
The cardiovascular system consists of the heart and blood vessels. These organs are responsible for transporting blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout the body, and removing metabolic waste. About five liters of blood is recycled through the 60,000 miles of blood vessels as a result of the 100,000+ heartbeats a day. The cardiovascular system is also in charge of clotting blood after an injury, transporting hormones to cells, regulating body temperature, and protecting the body from disease.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is the biggest killer of American men and women today, accounting for the deaths of more than 610,000 Americans every year, according to the CDC. Perhaps the scariest statistic is that 50 percent of men who die of heart disease had no previous symptoms.
Heart disease is a lifelong cardiovascular disease, which means early prevention is your best approach. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). This type of heart disease occurs when arteries become hard and narrow, creating a difficult path for blood flow to the heart. This hardening and narrowing is the result of plaque buildup in the artery walls. This plaque is comprised of fatty compounds, cholesterol, and other substances.
This plaque buildup, also known as atherosclerosis, occurs over the course of many years and can lead to a heart attack.
A heart attack occurs when the artery flow is blocked, and oxygen and nutrients are unable to reach the heart. Without proper blood flow, heart muscle cells can be damaged or destroyed — possibly permanently.
Symptoms of a heart attack include:
+ Chest pain
+ Upper body pain
+ Heartburn, indigestion or vomiting
+ Shortness of breath
+ Sweating anxiety
If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.
The Cause of Heart Disease
Artery inflammation causes heart disease.
Overall, inflammation causes weakness and damage to the blood vessels. Inflammation can lead to “soft” or vulnerable plaque that can become buried in artery walls. But vulnerable plaque is more than just a fatty buildup — it also contains cells specific to clotting. When you combine this inflammation with other stressors like high blood pressure, bleeding can occur at the site of the inflammation. When this happens, platelets respond by clumping together in an attempt to stop the bleeding. As a result, a clot forms that can block the flow of blood. The following factors cause inflammation:
Are You At Risk For Heart Problems?
Your risk factors determine your likelihood of developing heart disease. These factors include some aspects of your health that you can control, and other aspects you can’t do anything about. If your risk factors fall into the preventable category, it’s important to take every step you can to eliminate these risks from your life. Remember, heart disease is the leading cause of death in men — managing your risk factors could be a life or death decision.
Risk Factors You Can Control
+ Hypothyroidism: This leads to inflammation and mucin accumulation in your connective tissues
+ High blood pressure: Your level is high if systolic is 140 mmHg or more or if diastolic is 90 mmHg or more
+ Overweight and obesity: A BMI of 25 or greater increases your risk
Risk Factors You Can’t Control
+ Getting older: Heart disease risk goes up after you turn 40
+ Family history: Your risk increases if family members had early heart disease
+ Gender: Males are at greater risk than females
How To Spot The Signs Of Heart Problems
It’s important to know the symptoms of heart disease, especially if you know you’re at risk. Heart disease symptoms vary depending on the type of disease. They may be due to disease in the blood vessels (atherosclerosis), abnormal heart beats (arrhythmia), or other heart conditions such as defects or infection. You’re never too young to manage your heart health and take steps toward disease prevention. Look out for the following signs, and don’t ignore them if you’re experiencing any. You don’t want a heart attack to be the first alert that something’s wrong.
If you are 40 or older, you should receive a heart scan. A heart scan is the best way to diagnose CAD.
+ Chest pain (angina)
+ Extreme fatigue or weakness
+ Shortness of breath
+ Lightheadedness and dizziness
+ Fainting or near fainting
+ Nausea and sweating
+ Pounding heartbeat
Complications from Heart Disease
Heart disease can lead to dangerous complications, which often lead to death in many cases. Maintaining your heart health helps keep the disease and complications at bay. These complications include:
+ Heart attack. This happens when oxygen-rich blood is unable to reach part of the heart due to an artery blocked by plaque buildup.
+ Cardiac arrest. This is an emergency. Cardiac arrest is the abrupt halt of heart function. The heart stops beating and you lose consciousness immediately due to the lack of blood transported to your brain.
+ Heart failure. This is when the heart is unable to pump the amount of blood it should.
+ Stroke. A stroke occurs when the arteries bringing blood to your brain are too narrow or blocked, restricting access to your brain. A person having a stroke experiences weakness on one side of the body and struggles to speak. One side of the face droops.
Conventional doctors usually list cholesterol as the cause of coronary artery disease. However, that is simply not the case. The cholesterol myth is a classic example of correlation, not causation. Cholesterol is a consequence of heart disease, not the cause.
Cholesterol is found in all of the body’s cells. The body needs cholesterol to function properly, but it is important to understand the distinction between the two main types. LDL, or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, is known as “bad cholesterol.” It contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good cholesterol,” assists in removing excess cholesterol from your body and helps prevent buildup. HDL’s job is important because cholesterol is insoluble in blood, and HDL helps transport LDL to the liver to be reprocessed.
If you have high cholesterol, even with a healthy diet and active lifestyle, press the pause button before you start taking statin drugs. The underlying issue of your high cholesterol could be a thyroid problem.
High Blood Pressure and The Heart
Hypertension, also called high blood pressure, is a huge risk factor for heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure on its own is not the cause heart disease, but is rather a contributing factor. When high blood pressure is combined with other contributing factors, it creates a cumulative effect on the risk levels for developing heart disease and stroke. According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure affects one in every three Americans over age 20.
Blood pressure is a measure of the force that the blood exerts on the walls of the arteries as your heart beats. High blood pressure causes the heart to work harder than it should because it requires more force to pump blood, which further stresses artery walls. There’s a connection between high blood pressure and heart attacks because the excessive force damages the arteries, making them more prone to plaque buildup and inflammation. This can lead to bleeding and blood clot formation. A heart attack occurs when an artery is blocked, and the blood cannot reach the heart.
You can’t cure high blood pressure, but you can manage and prevent it. A healthy diet, weight loss and active lifestyle are excellent steps to lowering your blood pressure.
Many people live with hypertension without even knowing, because typically there are no symptoms until blood pressure is extremely elevated. For this reason, you should regularly get your level checked by your doctor. Your blood pressure is considered high if it is consistently greater than 120/80 mmHg. This is a ratio between your systolic (first number) and diastolic (second number) blood pressures. Systolic is the amount of force when the heart beats, and diastolic is the force between beats.
How to Prevent Heart Disease Naturally
Preventing heart disease before you develop it starts with a few simple steps. People of all ages should take steps to maintain a healthy heart and avoid heart disease — it’s never too early. There are many safe, natural approaches you can take that don’t involve prescription drugs. The first thing you should do is assess your level of risk. Do you smoke? Are you overweight? Do you eat a balanced diet? If any risk factors within your control apply to you, address those first.
The primary goal of natural heart attack prevention methods is reducing inflammation. You can do this by adjusting your diet. Rule out sugars, industrial cooking oils, packaged foods, and gluten. Instead, gravitate towards anti-inflammatory foods such as leafy greens, salmon, fruits and vegetables.
+ Stop smoking and don’t drink excessively. Both of these activities can increase risk of blood clots.
+ Exercise about 30 minutes a day several times a week. Exercise can help you manage other risk factors you may have like high blood pressure and obesity.
+ Bioidentical hormone replacement can also decrease your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health and wellness.