The Causes and Ways to Prevent Heart Disease

Last Updated: 31 May 2023
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People should know about the risks of heart disease such as what causes it and ways to prevents it. Although some doctors may not bring up issues concerning lifestyle with patients, because they feel patients will not listen, nevertheless patients need to be informed as to their own risk of heart disease. Of course heart disease is caused by a variety of factors. One of the leading causes of heart disease is degenerative changes in the coronary blood vessels.

This is something that happens over a long period of time as fatty deposits clog arteries and damage them. Congenital defects may also occur when the fetal heart develops abnormally, most commonly in the heart's valves. While some conditions do render a person more likely to develop heart disease, lifestyle is a major factor in the development and treatment of the disease. There are many ways to prevent, or greatly reduce the risk of heart disease.

The connection between nutrition and various diseases is undeniable. Preventive health care practices in nutrition should be advocated to reduce health risks and prolong human life. One nutrition and disease link that is indisputable is the correlation between heart disease and diet. Ironically, heart disease is not inevitable, people do have the power to alter their lives. Even a genetic predisposition toward coronary problems may be managed through proper exercise and nutrition. Often, the primary issues are those of understanding and motivation. Lifestyle Choices and Nutrition Powers (1997) points out that North Americans are paying for their tobacco use, poor diets, and lack of exercise with health care dollars.

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New attitudes toward the preventive aspects of health care may not only help people live longer but reduce the burden on the health care system. Human behavior is certainly odd sometimes as we paint our houses, seal our driveways, change the oil in our cars, and do countless other tasks all in the interest of preventing problems down the road. Yet when it comes to our health, many of us do not think about prevention (Powers, pp. 20).

Nutritionist Stephen Bymes (2001) the author of Diet and Heart Disease It's Not What You Think, has made it clear that many of the assumptions that are often made regarding heart disease and nutrition are proving to be incorrect. For example, he believes that the diets being recommended to reduce heart disease by many medical and nutritional practitioners for the past 50 years may actually being contributing to the problem. He even challenges many of the dietary guidelines organizations such as the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the American Heart Association, The American Diabetes Association, and the American Dietetic Association.

Byrnes illustrates that certain positive aspects of most causes, prevention, and non-drug treatments for society's ever-increasing incidences of cardiovascular diseases can be easily accessed through nutritional intervention and the supplement of certain nutrients. For example, he stresses the value of nutrient-dense whole foods, such as raw and fermented dairy products and whole eggs instead of imitation eggs. He also makes the point that dietary and herbal supplements such as garlic, gotu kola, niacin, coenzyme Q10 have proven to be valuable in helping in the prevention of heart disease as well as other chronic illnesses.

Byrnes identifies the true fat problems as processed, polyunsaturated vegetable oils and the unnatural trans- fatty acids created during the artificial hydrogenation of oils, which when consumed can contribute to excessive free-radical activity in the body (USA Today, p.49). He also believes that established medicine disregards the roles of vitamin C and the B vitamins. He refers to the willingness conventional medicine has to use technology such as EKG's, bypass, angioplasty, and cholesterol- lowering drugs as ultimately being non-solutions.

Diabetics, as a group, are more susceptible to the heart disease. Such individuals can help by keeping their blood glucose levels as normal as possible because increased blood glucose levels can damage large blood vessels over a period of time ("Cardiovascular," 1995). High levels of blood insulin can also be harmful for those with type II diabetes (1995). Keeping blood glucose levels in the normal range will prevent or delay blood vessel damage (1995). In addition to diabetics, smokers are at an increased risk.

Smoking narrows blood vessels over time and this can increase levels of fat in the blood ("Cardiovascular," 1995). Second hand smoke is also detrimental. Keeping blood pressure in the normal range can also help as high blood pressure is generally an early warning sign of blood vessel damage (1995). Weight loss and cutting salt from the diet are two things that can help (1995). High blood fats, including cholesterol, can also destroy blood vessels; there keeping cholesterol levels down is important ("Cardiovascular," 1995).

A change in eating and exercise habits can certainly help. A simple way to accomplish this is the eat less fat, by avoiding saturated fats and lowering one's blood fat level. If lowering the cholesterol is impossible to do by diet alone, a doctor may prescribe medication to help. In general, obesity is problematic and can contribute to an increased risk of heart disease. As an obese person ages, he or she is 50% (Brownlee, 2001, p. 124) more likely to develop heart disease. While this is the case, many doctors do not concern themselves with obesity, unless the patient has a disease where being overweight is a contributing factor (2001).

One study revealed that of obese patients who visited doctors, only 42% (2001, p.124) were advised to lose weight and only 34% (2001, p.124) were told to exercise. Researchers are finding new information regarding the biochemistry of heart disease symptoms. There are also reports that improved nutrition is the primary way to make a difference. Manipulating behaviours could keep away the twin evils of heart disease and diabetes. Another finding is that sugar could be as bad for your heart as saturated fat (Vines, 2001).

The simple fact is that a human being does not need to actually ingest saturated fats in order to have too many fat molecules in their system. As the liver functions and tackles the digestive process and its products, it can flood the bloodstream with deadly saturated fats that are already within the body. Anything that encourages the liver to do this could be just as bad as ingesting saturated fat itself.

Avoiding fatty foods, exercising and otherwise following healthy routines can reduce plaque build up around the arteries and also helps to strengthen the heart. It is now thought that personal habits and environmental conditions are much more likely to cause heart attacks than are hereditary traits. Major risk factors which cannot be changed are heredity, being male, and getting old. Modifiable lifestyle habits include being near tobacco smoke, having high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity ("Risk Factors" PG). The American Heart Association recommends a diet that is no more than 55-60% carbohydrate, 12-15% protein, and less than 30% fat (Visalli, 1996, p.210). Also, there should be no more than 10% (1996, p.210) of saturated fat in the diet. Salt should also be limited to 3 grams per day (1996, p.210).

While many people can at least decrease the likelihood of getting heart disease, there are many procedures that can be done to treat the condition ("Risk Factors" PG). Before beginning any type of medical or surgical procedure, tests must be performed. Testing might include angiography, position emission tomography, cardiac catheritization and Doppler ultrasonography (Visalli, 1996). There are a variety of other tests that are often done before recommendations are made concerning treatment. After a physician examines a patient and performs tests, recommendations for treatment will be made. The most common procedures performed to improve the condition is angioplasty.

Angioplasty is used to treat patients who have blockages in vessels which carry blood to the heart (Bhardwaj, 1995). During the process, doctors slip a very narrow tube into the heart via an arm of leg (1995). A balloon is inflated inside of the blocked artery (1995). The balloon presses the blockage to the side of the artery to some extent which allows blood to flow freely once again (1995). Angioplasty is generally done under local anesthesia when the patient is awake throughout the procedure (1995).

If that fails, then bypass surgery is generally indicated. Bypass surgery is accomplished when a new passage is created from a section of a vein or artery that is removed from somewhere else and used to carry blood around parts of narrow vessels (Visalli, 1996). Coronary bypass surgery happens to be the most common procedure of this kind (1996). However, bypass operations can also be done on the carotid artery and vessels contained in the leg (1996). In extreme circumstances a heart transplant may be necessary.

Throughout the past decade, there has been a great deal of media coverage and speculation regarding the link between alcohol and heart disease. Many physicians believe drinking one glass of red wine a day can actually prevent heart disease. Well, it is known that approximately half of the protective power of alcohol against cardiovascular disease is caused by increasing the levels of high- density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. However, it is important to understand that the mechanism of the remaining half of the protective effect is unclear.

According to Pearson (1997) Many studies have demonstrated a relationship between alcohol consumption and total mortality, the lowest mortality occurs in those people who consume one or two drinks per day. Keeping in mind that one glass of wine, one beer, and one shot all contain the same amount of alcohol. The reduction in mortality associated with alcohol intake is due to a decrease in deaths from coronary heart disease. The increase in mortality associated with high levels of alcohol consumption is attributable to a variety of causes, including strokes and other diseases related to hypertension, as well as liver diseases, accidents, suicide, and homicide (Pearson, pp.21).

Today, having a predisposition for heart disease does not mean death, much is known about prevention and treatment and many people can prevent the condition by changing a few habits. Losing weight is perhaps the most important thing to do, aside from quitting smoking. While conditions such as diabetes predisposes a person to heart disease, there are things one can do to prevent the inevitable hardening of the arteries.

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The Causes and Ways to Prevent Heart Disease. (2023, May 25). Retrieved from

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