Nearly 14 million men and women in the United Sates of America are affected by coronary heart disease annually. It is also believed to be a major cause for death and disabilities like full or partial paralysis. Let’s understand what causes this disease.
Coronary heart disease (CHD), also known as coronary artery disease, occurs when plaque builds up inside the blood vessels such as the arteries and veins. These blood vessels carry oxygen-rich blood and other nutrients to the heart muscles. Plaque is a hardened tissue, which is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the bloodstream. The condition of plaque build-up in the arteries is known as atherosclerosis. Here, the plaque narrows or blocks the blood vessels, hence, the heart does not get enough blood, and has to strain itself to pump it.
Restricted blood flow causes chest pain, whereas, a completely blocked flow may lead to a heart attack or a sudden cardiac arrest. It is imperative to understand what causes CHD, so as to take timely preventive measures to lead a healthy life.
Heredity: Genetic transmission from parent to child is believed to be one of the leading causes of this condition.
High Blood Pressure: When the cardiovascular system rapidly raises the blood pressure by circulating blood on the walls of the veins and arteries forcefully, it causes high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.
High Cholesterol: Cholesterol, a waxy, fatty substance, is naturally present in the body. Too much cholesterol in the bloodstream causes the excess to be deposited on the walls of the coronary arteries, thus narrowing and blocking them.
Tobacco: When nicotine present in tobacco enters the bloodstream, it results in narrowing of the blood vessels. As the blood flow constricts, the heart applies more pressure to pump blood. This constant stress on the heart often results in strokes. Smoking cigarettes or pipe, and chewing tobacco can cause a lot of harm to the heart.
Diabetes: Diabetes occurs when the body cannot regulate the amount of glucose in the blood, and as this glucose cannot move into the cells, it stays back in the blood, causing a build-up of unused glucose. Diabetes is known to accelerate arterial fatty plaque formation, resulting in blockages.
Obesity: Obesity is a metabolic disorder, where excess fat accumulates in the body, that is known to raise blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels and blood pressure levels. Obesity is a long-term disease, and it has many serious consequences.
Stress: Stress does not directly cause CHD, but is known to accelerate constriction of the blood vessels, and cause a rise in blood pressure and heart rate. As more blood is pumped through the blocked arteries, it stresses the heart. When stress is long-term, it damages the coronary arteries.
Diet and Exercise: A diet high in fats and low in fiber increases the risk of plaque build-up in the coronary arteries. A good, healthy, low-fat diet will help combat many causes of the disease, by ensuring smooth flow of blood to the heart for its functions. No physical activity builds up fat in the body, leading to obesity and its associated problems. A regular exercise plan will not only help one fight obesity and diabetes, but also lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
More women than men suffer from CHD. However, in women, it does affect till after menopause, as until menopause, women are protected by high levels of estrogen. As this disease has become a reason for many deaths, it is a cause for grave concern. Simple lifestyle changes go a long way in combating CHD.