“What is heart disease?” may seem an obvious question to some, but understanding the connection between diet, heart disease, stroke, and heart attack can help us to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Heart disease is often called cardiovascular disease. It is a condition covering a range of common yet serious conditions such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure and arrhythmia. It also includes atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arterial lining).
You may already have elevated risk factors for heart disease, such as atherosclerosis and aging. Men over the age of 45 and women over 55 are automatically at increased risk of heart disease. It’s important to know what heart disease is, what causes it, and how it can be reduced.
Atherosclerosis and Heart Attack
Plaque is made up of cholesterol, fatty substances, calcium and fibrin (a clotting material in the blood) which eventually cause a hardening of the walls of the main arteries. The problems begin when the plaque begins to block blood flow, decreasing the oxygen supply and causing elevated blood pressure as the heart works harder to force the blood through the narrower arteries.
Blood clots may form on the plaque surface, or the plaque deposits may break off. If plaque or a blood clot travel toward the heart and stop the blood flow completely, it causes a heart attack which can be fatal. In a similar way, if a blood clot or plaque deposit stops the flow of blood to the brain, it causes a stroke, which is similarly life-threatening.
Related: Heart Health Supplements
Life Changes after Heart Attack or Stroke
Often people do not understand what heart disease is until after they have experienced a heart attack or stroke. To avoid a repeat incident, life changes are necessary to boost heart health, such as:
- Stopping smoking
- Switching to a healthy low-fat diet
- Losing excess weight
- Taking regular exercise
- Decreasing stress or your reactions to stress
Tests can be performed to determine what damage has been caused by a stroke or heart attack. Your doctor may recommend blood-thinning medication to reduce the risk of clotting, installing a pacemaker, heart valve surgery, coronary angioplasty or even a surgical arterial bypass graft to help improve blood flow.
Better still, adopting a healthy lifestyle can prevent heart disease, plaque and all the associated problems. Natural supplements such as coenzyme Q10 to lower blood pressure, fish oil supplements to reduce triglycerides and green tea to lower cholesterol can all boost heart health naturally.
So if you’re asking, “What is heart disease?” make sure you put into practice what you learn to significantly lower your risk of heart disease before it’s too late.