The Causes Of Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease results from a number of factors:
- The narrowing of blood vessels in the heart and the rest of the body by arteriosclerosis.
- High blood cholesterol level.
- High blood pressure.
- Excess body weight.
- High levels of the amino acid homocystein in the blood.
- High levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) and/or low levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL) in the blood. Lipoprotein is a combination of protein and fatty substances bound together.
- Inflammation of the circulatory system.
- Old age.
- Inherited tendencies for high cholesterol levels and heart disease.
These factors all interrelate and the effects are cumulative. For example, arteriosclerosis will lead to higher blood pressure, and high blood pressure will in turn tend to cause even more arteriosclerosis. Many of these factors are ultimately caused or aggravated by lifestyle choices:
- Excess consumption of fat, cholesterol and sugar.
- Consuming the wrong types of fat.
- A lack of fibre, vitamins and minerals in the diet.
- Stress at work and daily life.
- Lack of exercise.
These are all within the control of all of us.
A diet intended to prevent heart disease is generally the same as a diet to prevent cancer and other diseases:
- Significantly reduce or eliminate the amount of processed food in the diet.
- Eat fish at least every second day.
- Reduce to a minimum the amount of red meat.
- Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Each portion should be the size of an apple or carrot. They should be raw or lightly boiled so that the nutrients are not washed out.
- Consume as many different forms of peas and beans as you can.
- Reduce fat to a minimum – ideally most fat you consume should be monounsaturated, like canola oil. Balance this with some polyunsaturated oils making sure that the balance of omega 3 to omega 6 type fats is in favour of the omega 3. Most of us consume far to many omega 6 fats already.
- Avoid altogether fat that has been chemically altered – the so-called trans-fats. Unfortunately that often means missing out on the tastiest bought cookies!
- Consume just a very moderate amount of sugar, refined flour or refined cereals.
- Use just a small amount of salt when cooking food.
Diet Supplements That Help Prevent Heart Disease
Very few people can get all the dietary co-factors they need to minimize heart disease from diet alone. Some supplements are particularly useful:
- Omega-3-fatty acids derived from fish and other marine sources, containing the fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ALA (alpha-Linolenic acid).
- Higher levels vitamin C have been thought to help prevent heart disease, but newer findings have cast doubt on this.
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), folic acid / folate, vitamin B12 and riboflavin act to reduce the build up of homocystein in the blood.
Diet alone is usually not enough. If you are significantly overweight you should consider further measures:
You should do some exercise of at least half an hour at least every second day. Recent research has concentrated on HIT (High Intensity Training) which involves very vigorous activity for just a few minutes a day, for even better results.
Smoking is just all round bad news for the heart and circulation, It narrows arteries, furs up blood vessels and reduces lung capacity. There is no upside for the heart if you smoke.
Control Your Diabetes If You Have It
Type 1 Diabetes is a genetic condition that involves lifelong medication if it is not to cause very real harm to the heart and blood vessels.
Many people over the age of 50, and an increasing number of young people, now also suffer from Type 2 Diabetes due to poor lifestyle choices. A radical diet that eliminates carbohydrates has proven very effective in reducing, and often eliminating, this condition.
Low doses of aspirin (acetyl salicylic acid) have proven beneficial for reducing a number of cancers, as well as lowering the risks of secondary heart attacks. However, aspirin does have significant side effects, the most dangerous being uncontrolled gastric bleeding, so should only be taken under strict medical guidance.