Guest Author - Dr. Denise Howard
The number 1 cause of death in the U.S. and the world is heart disease. It is however a potentially preventable medical problem. Understanding the factors that contribute to the development of this problem is the first step in preventing this notorious killer.
The term heart disease refers to a whole range of heart problems. This can result from damage to the heart muscles, valves, chambers and blood vessels as a result of either a birth defect or an acquired disorder. Coronary artery disease (CAD), artherosclerotic heart disease or cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to damage to the arteries and it is this arterial damage that causes the bulk of heart disease.
Artherosclerotic heart disease develops over time. Plaque development in the arteries can start as early as adolescence. Over time this development can cause a narrowing of the lumen, limiting blood flow to the heart during times of increased demand. The plaque also provides a surface for clot formation that can cause a sudden obstruction of blood flow. The clot can develop in one site then flow through the artery and lodge at a distal site creating acute problems such as an obstruction in the coronary arteries or a blockage in the brain leading to a stroke.
Factors that contribute to the development of these artherosclerotic plaques and heart disease are many. There are some factors that canít be controlled such as age and family history. The risk of heart disease increases with age and is greater in those over age 65. Women who have a family history of early onset heart disease and heart attack are at greater risk than those who do not have such a history.
Other risk factors include smoking, obesity, sedentary life style, hypertension, elevated cholesterol and diabetes. Smoking damages the endothelial cells of the arteries providing a foundation for the development of plague. Diabetes is also damaging, especially at the level of the microvascular structures making treatment of the damage much more difficult. Elevated lipids or cholesterol contributes to the development of the artherosclerotic plagues throughout the arterial system. Uncontrolled hypertension causes the heart to work harder to pump blood through the body and this overwork leads to failure of the heart muscle over time.
When it comes to heart disease there are many things that you can do something about. If you smoke, stop smoking. If you have high cholesterol, hypertension or diabetes get the proper medical attention to ensure consistent control of these problems. Regular exercise, proper nutrition and weight management can help prevent and control these disorders. Proper control of these disorders can prevent the development of CVD. You have the power to make the difference in your health.
I hope this article has provided you with information that will help you make wise choices, so you may:
Live healthy, live well and live long!