Health

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Unbreak your heart : 2 – What causes heart disease?

What causes your heart to fail?

In most cases there is not one single cause of heart failure. There are a number of conditions that make it more likely that you will develop heart failure. These include:

– Coronary heart disease, when the arteries supplying blood to the heart become furred up and narrow due to atherosclerosis. This is the most common cause of both heart attack and heart failure

– High blood pressure puts extra strain on the heart and over time can lead to heart failure

– Damage to the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy) can lead to heart failure. Damage can be caused by infections but also by alcohol misuse, drug abuse or sometimes as a side effect of prescribed drugs

Heart attacks can also damage the heart muscle

– Heart rhythm disturbance (atrial fibrillation)

– Heart valve disease, damage or problems with the valves in the heart due to infection, atherosclerosis or ageing can lead to heart failure.

– Anaemia

– An overactive thyroid gland

Coronary heart disease

By far the most common cause of heart failure is coronary heart disease (CHD). According to the National Health Service (CHD) is usually caused by a build-up of fatty deposits on the walls of the coronary arteries. The fatty deposits, called atheroma, are made up of cholesterol and other waste substances

The build-up of atheroma on the walls of the coronary arteries makes the arteries narrower and restricts the flow of blood to the heart. This process is called athersclerosis. Your risk of developing atherosclerosis is significantly increased if you:

– smoke

– have high blood pressure

– have a high blood cholesterol level

don’t take regular exercise

– have diabetes

– are obese or overweight

– have a family history of CHD:  the risk is increased if you have a male relative with CHD under 55 or a female relative under 65

According to the NHS “many of these factors can be managed either by making lifestyle changes or by taking medicines”

Exposure to free radicals from air pollutants, toxic chemicals, chlorinated water, and pesticides is also factors for heart disease. Chronic stress (emotional and physical) may trigger a heart attack as well. Stress will not only raise your blood pressure and constrict arteries but it will also generate huge doses of adrenalin which the body will then convert to adrenochrome, a free radical

Alcohol’s role in causing heart disease is still a debatable topic. Studies have shown that moderate consumption of red wine may reduce the risk of heart disease, but heavy drinking of any alcoholic beverage remains to be a risk factor

Some diseases can also affect the heart, include infection, congenital heart disease, and cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy refers to the disease of the heart muscle. This disease may occur due to one of several reasons including viral infection, thyroid disease, high blood pressure, and high alcohol intake. Bacterial infection can damage heart valves and other tissues as well, while viral infections can lead to abnormal heart rhythms and even heart failure

The build-up of atheroma on the walls of the coronary arteries makes the arteries narrower and restricts the flow of blood to the heart. This process is called athersclerosis. Your risk of developing atherosclerosis is significantly increased if you:

While smoking,  high blood pressure, lack of exercise, being obese or overweight and diabetes are all widely accepted as major risk factors for heart disease, there is a growing body of opinion against the official NHS view regarding high blood cholesterol, and, specifically, its causes, as a risk factor. That a multi billion pound pharmaceutical and dietary industry has developed around blood cholesterol means that there are powerful lobbies at work in support of  the theory

In the rest of this series NMTBP will be looking at the facts and fictions surrounding blood cholesterol and challenging some of the received wisdom that ahs developed over the past 30 years

Next – How cholesterol became the enemy

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