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HEART HEALTH

Monday, May 20, 2024 10:57 AM

Photo by Khadeeja Yasser on unsplash.com

When we talk about heart problems, the first thing that comes to mind is Heart Attacks. A heart attack occurrs when blood flow to a part of your heart is blocked for a long enough time that part of the heart muscle is damaged or dies. It is called a myocardial infraction. “Myo” means muscle, “cardiac” refers to the heart and “infraction” means death of tissue due to lack of blood supply. 

Heart attacks are the leading cause of death for both men and women. The heart muscle requires a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood to nourish it. The coronary arteries provide the heart with this critical blood supply. If you have coronary artery disease (plaque build-up) those arteries become narrow and blood cannot flow as well as it should. Fatty matter, calcium, proteins, and inflammatory cells build up within the arteries to form plaque of different sizes. When the plaque is hard, the outer shell cracks, platelets (particles in the blood that aid clothing to repair) come to the area and blood clots form around the plaque. If a blood clot totally clogs the artery, the heart muscle becomes starved for oxygen. within a short time, death of heart muscle cells occurs, causing permanent damage. This is a heart attack. The amount of damage to the heart muscle depends on the size of the area supplied by the blocked artery and the time between injury and treatment. Healing of the heart muscle begins soon after a heart attack and takes about eight weeks. Just like a skin wound, the heart’s wound heals and scar will form in the damages area. But the new scar tissue does not contract. So the heart’s pumping ability is lessened after a heart attack. 

Classical symptoms of acute heart attack include sudden chest pain typically radiating to the left arm or left side of the neck, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, palpitations, sweating and anxiety (often described as a sense of impending doom). Women may experience fewer typical symptoms then men, most commonly shortnes of breath, weakness, a feeling of indigestion and fatigue. Approximately 1/4 of all heart attacks are “silent” that is without chest pain or other symptoms. Immediate treatment for a suspected acute heart attack traditionally includes oxygen, aspirin and sublingual nitroglycerin. 

When we talk about plaque build-up we hear a lot of talk about Cholesterol but there are many other factors involved. Cholesterol is not a deadly poison, but a substance vital to the cells of all mammals. It is a type of fat which is produced by the liver and is crucial for normal body function. Cholesterol exists in the outer layer of every cell in our body and has many functions. It is essential for determining which molecules can pass into the cell and which cannot. Is is involved in the production of sex hormones, to name a few. There are no such things as good or bad cholesterol, but mental stress, physical activity and change of body weight which is caused by other factors may influence the level of blood cholesterol. A high cholesterol is not dangerous by itself, but may reflect an unhealthy condition, or it may be totally innocent. A high blood cholesterol is said to promote atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease but many studies have shown that people whose blood cholesterol is low become just as atheroschlerotic as people whose cholesterol is high. So basically if a person is diagnosed with high blood cholesterol, there’s an underlying situation which is causing this and it would need to be found and addressed. I have found that a very common cause is too much simple carbs in the diet. 

The cycle is this - Let’s say you eat candy which is basically sugar, or white bread which turns into sugar quickly and gets into your blood rapidly. The body is thrown into an emergency handling to reduce the quantity of sugar that was just thrown into circulation because too much sugar in the blood can be lethal. Our body is regularly monitoring the level of sugar to keep it within a certain range (we call it sugar regulation) when it peaks above the maximum range after eating something sweet, the pancreas has to get into action to help reduce the level back into normal range. Insulin gets produced to handle this sugar, some of the sugar gets used by the brain, some by the muscles but the surplus is turned into fat for use later on. Insulin is irritating to the arteries, so if this is a regular occurrence with someone who eats donuts every day let’s say, then the walls of the arteries get very irritated and weak so cholesterol gets produced to reinforce the cells in the wall and patch the arteries so they don’t burst. Over time you can get a build up of cholesterol or fat deposit in the arteries which reduce the flow of blood thru the arteries and causes high blood pressure and you see where this is leading. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are closely related, one usually goes with the other. So a lot can be done about this nutritionally. 

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