What is Coronary Heart Disease?
One of Europe's biggest killer of adults is coronary heart disease (CHD). Every year CHD causes around 82,000 deaths in the UK alone. One in five men and one in eight women die from the disease and there are approximately 2.7 million who live with CHD. Another 2 million people are affected by angina (which is the most common symptom of coronary heart disease).
The main symptoms of CHD are
What Causes Heart Disease?
CHD is caused when the blood supply to the heart becomes blocked, or cannot get through because of a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries. As we get older our arteries can become furred up with fatty deposits in a process known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of heart disease and it can be produced by our lifestyle habits. Things to look out for are:
If your GP is concerned that you are at risk from CHD they will take a full medical and family history as genetic factors may be involved. S/he may recommend a blood test, x-rays, an electrocardiogram, MRI scan or CT scan.
What Is the Difference between a Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest?
Many people assume that a heart attack is the same as a cardiac arrest, but this is not the case. The heart is a muscle that needs oxygen-rich blood supply, provided by coronary arteries. A heart attack occurs when there is a blockage of the coronary arteries. In a cardiac arrest the heart stops beating while in a heart attack the heart carries on beating even though the blood supply to the heart is interrupted. In a heart attack the sufferer will experience symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing wheezing, but in cardiac arrest there is more likely to be a sudden loss of consciousness with no breathing or pulse. A cardiac arrest can be caused by a heart attack.
CHD cannot be cured, but you can make lifestyle changes that will reduce the likelihood of a heart attack. Keeping your heart healthy can also provide you with other health benefits, reducing the risk of stroke and dementia. Changes to consider are undertaking regular exercise, limiting your alcohol intake, stopping smoking, taking medication as advised by your GP and eating a healthy and balanced diet – or a healthy heart diet.
The Healthy Heart Diet: Heart-Healthy Foods
If you want to know how to have a healthy heart, utilise our healthy heart tips and fill up your plate with colour. Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables are the way forward. Eat fish a few times a week and eliminate salt, saturated and trans fats. Here's a list of healthy heart foods.
Yoghurt and dairy foods can help to prevent gum disease and gum disease is a well-known cause of heart disease if it is left untreated. Probiotics are live active cultures that are used to ferment foods, and studies suggest that they may improve digestion and boost immunity too. Raisins are also a useful food to fight gum disease, and therefore heart problems, as they fight the growth of a type of bacteria that can cause inflammation and gum disease.
Two or more portions of fish per week have been linked to lower risk of developing CHD. Oily fish such as salmon, tuna and herring are particularly helpful as they contain omega-3 fats, which reduce the levels of triglycerides in the blood that contribute to blood clotting. Omega-3s can also lower blood pressure and help avert irregular heart rhythms. For vegetarians, flaxseed oil, canola oil and walnuts also contain omega-3 fats.
3. Whole Grains
Whole grain contains antioxidants, phytoestrogens and phytosterols that protect against CHD. Soluble fibre is the best option and can be found in beans, aubergines, citrus fruits, oatmeal, barley, and okra.
The adverts are true. Beans are good for your heart! They contain lots of soluble fibre that helps to lower cholesterol as well as heart-protective chemicals, such as flavonoids, that are also found in wine, berries and chocolate. Flavonoids help to lower risk for heart attack and strokes.
Rich dark chocolate has a blood-thinning effect, and this benefits cardiovascular health, and boosts the immune system. The flavanols in some cocoa drinks help to preserve the healthy function of blood vessels which lowers the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and dementia.
Next on the list are tomatoes. Tomatoes are a fabulous source of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and fibre. The combination of nutrients in tomatoes may help to prevent cardiovascular disease.
You've heard the saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, well in the case of CHD this is true. Another one of our healthy heart tips is to eat apples. Apples are associated with a lower risk of death from CHD as frequent apple eaters have the lowest risk of suffering strokes. Apples have strong antioxidant flavonoid compounds that prevent a build-up of plaque in the arteries and are rich in soluble fibre and provide a decent amount of vitamin C.
Bananas contain potassium that helps to maintain normal heart function and balances sodium and water in the body. Potassium helps the kidneys to excrete excess sodium which contributes to healthy blood pressure.
Nuts are full of vitamins and minerals, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats which all contribute to lower levels of CHD.
10. Green Tea
Green tea has been linked to lowering the risk of gum disease in Japan. Green tea is rich in catechins, which decrease cholesterol absorption in the body. Green tea may also help to prevent cancer and weight gain.
Pomegranates contain antioxidants that protect the lining of coronary arteries from damage. Antioxidant-rich pomegranate juice stimulates the production of nitric oxide in the body, which helps keep blood flowing and arteries open.
Broccoli is rich in vitamin K, essential for bone formation. It also helps to keep calcium from damaging the arteries and is full of fibre. A high fibre diet is great to help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Asparagus is a natural artery-clearing food. It works within the veins and arteries to release pressure, and helps to ward off deadly blood clots.
The spice turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory containing curcumin which lowers inflammation -- a major cause of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) by as much as 26 percent. That makes turmeric one of the best foods to use to reduce heart disease and maintain heart health.
One teaspoon a day of antioxidant-rich cinnamon will help to reduce fat in the bloodstream and prevent a build-up of plaque in the arteries. It also helps to lower bad cholesterol levels by as much as 26 percent.
16. Orange Juice
Last but not least on our list for a healthy heart diet is orange juice. Drinking just two small glasses of 100-percent orange juice can help reduce diastolic (resting) blood pressure.
If you want to keep your heart healthy or improve or maintain your heart health then you need to make lifestyle changes. Consider our list of the best foods to eat to prevent the risk factors for heart disease and maintain a healthy level of exercise in your daily regime.
Image credit: suriyaphoto / 123RF Stock Photo
February 12, 2014