Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Heart Disease and Prevention

Have you ever suffered heart burn, or even mild chest pain after miniscule exercise? If so, you may be at risk for developing a more severe condition: heart disease. It can be perceived as simple symptoms that are controllable now, but after a chronic unhealthy lifestyle, genetics, or by pure chance, heart disease can arise. Heart disease is classified as the leading cause of death in the United States to this day. But why you may ask? The average American spends little to absolutely no time exercising and couples their already bad behavior of lethargy with a poor diet. The most common type of heart disease Americans are self-invoking is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD); this disease affects more than 400,000 Americans (CDC Statistics). A brief explanation of the heart’s inter-workings will aid in the further investigation of heart disease.
The physiology of the heart leads us to further explanation of why Americans are experiencing heart attacks, or Myocardial Infarctions. All tissues in the body are in need of a constant supply of oxygen, and the heart is no different, of course. The heart has to continuously circulate blood throughout the body to ensure that the tissues perfuse adequately, but what happens when the heart’s own supply of oxygen is compromised? In those who suffer from CAD (a specific condition of heart disease), the arteries of the body that supply the oxygen to the heart, the coronary arteries, are injured. The injured coronary arteries are victims of atherosclerosis and aneurysms. Atherosclerosis is a thickening of the arterial wall by plaque, a combination of fat and cholesterol. The artery can then be subject to clogging due the smaller arteries, and consequently the heart will not receive any oxygen and will fail. The victim will then experience a heart attack which may cause death if untreated. In an aneurysm, the arterial wall itself is weak, most likely due to hypertension, and can rupture. Not only will the heart tissues not receive any oxygen, but the rupture may cause internal bleeding. This brings up the important topic of why Americans are contracting the disease.
It is commonly heard that heart disease is linked through your family history, but is this true? Most scientists and dieticians agree that heart disease is and can be passed down to the next generation through genetics. “Researchers have identified more than 250 genes that may play a role in CAD…on average, a person's risk level is approximately midway between those of the parents.” ( A careful examination of one’s family history can uncover a wealth of knowledge about one’s risk for heart disease. If one’s parents, grandparents, aunt or uncle and so on have dealt with a heart problems then it possible that you too are at an elevated risk. The genetic component of the heart disease may be unchangeable although American’s still obtain heart disease through their own undoing’s as well.
Combined with a greater disposition to contract heart disease genetically, Americans live lives of gluttony when it comes to meal times. Corpulent men and women are gorging themselves in fats, sugars and cholesterol which contribute to atherosclerosis and inherently heart attacks. The sugars that are consumed and not needed by the body are turned into fat, a storage molecule. The fat and cholesterol are then transported through the body to specific sites; however, in order to the transported, the fat and cholesterol need to be sent through the bloodstream. The fat and cholesterol will eventually end up in the heart, and that also entails the opportunity to travel through the coronary arteries where buildup may occur. The victim’s heart will have to work increasingly hard to pump the blood through the constricted vessels. If the person were to exercise or choose healthier foods, they may not experience the same unfortunate result, but if one cannot control his portions, he/she may be able to control their movement through exercise.
Exercise is an all important tool in combating heart disease. Exercise burns sugars so that they will not be transformed to fats, and it also burns fats themselves. The resulting lower body fat composition can decrease the chance for developing plaque in the arteries. Experts agree that strenuous exercise is not even needed: “Regular exercise also reduces the effects of other risk factors. It only takes 30 minutes a day to minimize your chances for heart disease -- anything from brisk walking to gardening to playing sports can be considered exercise.” ( In summation, heart disease can affect the weakest and strongest of us; however, with the right diet, exercise, and awareness we can avoid complications and struggle.


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