If they are, try to do something about them, especially if you have diabetes. Sometimes we become apprehensive, and with good reason, about those frightening signs that may announce a heart attack. But, are we equally concerned about the heart disease causes that can lead to a heart attack?
Knowing the causes is the first step towards preventing heart disease. Let us review them just in case one or more are part of your daily life so you can take some action to eliminate them.
1. You smoke
Smoking is one of the main causes of heart disease. The risk of dying of heart failure is about four times higher in people who smoke than in those who don’t smoke. Many of us are under the impression that the major danger from smoking is cancer but that is not quite true; smoking is the major risk factor for heart failure and strokes. In fact, about 40% of deaths caused by cardiovascular disease are due to smoking.
Smoking contributes to heart failure and strokes in the following manner:
1. Increases blood pressure and the risk for heart attacks and strokes.
2.The carcinogen components in tobacco damage the walls of the arteries.
3. The carbon monoxide from the burning of the tobacco interferes with the blood capacity to carry oxygen to our heart.
4. Smoking causes the narrowing of the blood vessels that carry blood to our legs and arms.
I know that to stop smoking is not a piece of cake but you have to make an effort. If you try, I am confident you’ll succeed. Be strong! Look for professional help to assist you in this task. And don’t get discourage if you have already tried and didn’t make it. Try as many times as you can.
2. You don’t walk
For years, health professionals have examined the association between physical activity and heart attack. The findings consistently reveal that people who are physically active have half the risk for heart attacks than people who are not active. Those studies show also that at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, on most days of the week, is sufficient to reduce the risk of a heart disease.
Keep in mind that the heart is a muscle, and like any other muscle in the body, it becomes stronger the more you exercise it. Without exercise, it loses muscle fibers and becomes weak until it is unable to do its job. And the last thing you need is a heart that can’t do its job.
The direct effects of physical activity on heart disease are:
1. Walking strengthens the heart so it can pump more blood with fewer beats
2. Lowers blood pressure by increasing the diameter of the coronary arteries.
3. Lowers “LDL”, the bad cholesterol
4. Increases “HDL”, the “good” cholesterol
5. Decreases triglycerides
6. Decreases the risk of diabetes, which is a risk for heart attacks
3. You eat too much saturated fat
There is a reason why health authorities advise us to limit the consumption of saturated fat:
1. Saturated fat clogs your arteries. It is the most rigid of all fats and is solid at room temperature. Solid fats are hard to dissolve and can easily get stuck in your arteries.
2. Saturated fat causes the liver to overproduce cholesterol. The liver makes about 75 percent of the cholesterol your body needs from internal sources, while the remaining 25 percent comes from food. But when you eat too much saturated fat, your liver keeps producing cholesterol and you end up with much more cholesterol than you need. Limit saturated fat consumption to less than 10 percent of the total calories ingested per day.
4. You eat too many foods containing hydrogenated oils or trans fats
Here is another health failure causes. Health authorities are concerned that the consumption of trans fats might have contributed to the 20th century epidemic of coronary heart disease. Hydrogenated oils or trans fats as they are usually called, are produced artificially by inserting molecules of hydrogen in vegetable oils, a process called hydrogenation. Through this process, the oil, which is liquid at room temperature, changes its original form and becomes solid. In other words, it becomes saturated fat.
Trans fats destroy our body cells because the unnatural shapes of these fats cause our cells to become malformed and to malfunction. And that includes the cells of the heart and the arteries. Read the food label and avoid products which contain trans fats or hydrogenated fats.
Example of foods that contain these harmful fats are:
1. Industrial bakery such as cookies, donuts, croissants, cakes, and the like
2. Solid margarine
3. Fried fast food
5. You don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables
Not eating adequate amount of fruits and vegetables is one of the main heart failure causes. We know by experience and research that people who consume plant foods regularly have a lower incidence of heart failure and strokes than those who do not include them in their diet.
Fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals, non-nutritive chemicals found in plant foods that protect their host plants from infections and microbial invasions. Recently, however, we have learned that phytochemicals are also crucial in protecting humans against many diseases, including heart disease.
Among the functions phytochemicals perform in our bodies are:
1. They act as antioxidants
2. They keep the walls of small blood vessels healthy
3. They make our small blood vessels stronger
4. They prevent platelets from becoming sticky and piling up
5, They block specific enzymes that raise blood pressure. Include about 9 portions of fruits and vegetables a day as part of a healthy diet.
6. You have too much stress
Have you ever felt strong headaches, muscle pain, anxiety, insomnia, and tiredness? If you identify yourself with some of these symptoms, your body may be going through an excess of tension. Nowadays, 80 percent of the population suffers from some kind of symptoms caused by stress which many times end up in illnesses such as high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart attacks.
Trying to cover on a daily basis more tasks than you physically can handle may be one of the major contributors to your stress. It could be that one of the reasons why you succumb to disease easily is the level of stress in your life since tension reduces your capacity of adaptation to your environment. You need to learn how to surround yourself with peace and serenity.
7. You drink too much alcohol
Avoid high alcohol consumption. Five to seven percent of the hypertension we see in people is due to high alcohol intake. The Health World Organization estimates that almost 2/3 of strokes and 50 percent of heart attacks are caused by high pressure. Limit your alcohol intake to two small glasses of wine a day if you are a male and one small glass a day if you are a female.
Final thoughts on heart disease causes
If you make an effort to implement a healthy diet in your life, you will reduce or eliminate many heart disease causes. And the beauty of it is that you won’t be part of the yearly American Heart Association’s statistics of deaths occurred by heart failures or strokes.
To your heart health!
Emilia Klapp, RD, BS