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GETTING TO THE ROOTS OF HEART DISEASE

WHAT IS HEART DISEASE?

Heart disease is a group of conditions affecting the structure and functions of the heart and has many root causes. Your heart is a muscle that gets its energy from your blood providing oxygen and other nutrients. Having a constant supply of blood keeps your heart working properly. Coronary artery disease develops when a combination of fatty materials, calcium and scar tissue - called plaque - builds up in the coronary arteries that supply blood to your heart. The plaque build-up narrows the arteries and prevents the heart from getting enough blood.

ARE YOU AT RISK FOR HEART DISEASE?

  • Are you a man over 35 or a woman over 45?
  • Is there a history of heart disease in your family?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Are you overweight?
  • Do you exercise infrequently?
  • Are you under too much ongoing stress?
  • Do you have a poor diet full of cholesterol, salt, and sugar?
  • Do you eat few fruits and vegetables?
  • Do you drink too much alcohol (2 or more drinks a day)?
  • Do you have high blood pressure, hypertension?
  • Do you have high cholesterol?
  • Do you have diabetes?

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HEART PROBLEMS

  • Pain or discomfort in the center of the chest. The pain or discomfort can be mild or strong. It can last more than a few minutes, or it can go away and come back
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath that often occurs before or along with the chest pain or discomfort.
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling faint or woozy
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat

Women are more likely to have less common signs of a heart attack, including:

  • Heartburn
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Coughing
  • Heart flutters

A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF HEART DISEASE

Most people are aware that plaque build-up in the arteries surrounding the heart is one of the major causes of heart disease. The reason that the plaque accumulates, however, is often due to an inflammation of the artery walls caused by the body’s own immune system. Recently, scientists from California’s La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology were able to identify the type of immune cells responsible for that inflammation. Vascular immunology expert Dr. Klaus Ley led the research project in which he observed that the inflammation appeared to be the immune cells’ response to the presence of a protein that occurs naturally in the body – in other words, it appears to be an autoimmune disorder, in which a normal element of the body is mistaken as a foreign organism.

A NEW APPROACH TO HEART DISEASE

Prevention of heart disease before it occurs and helping the body to heal itself at a cellular level in those with the disease are the new prescriptions for the 21st century. Most of us are no longer willing to rely on drugs which are at best a temporary solution to our health problems anyway. Instead we are searching for the source of our health problems and for natural ways to prevent and eliminate these issues. It all begins with a healthy immune system. Scientists have found a direct link between our immune system and the health of our heart. They have found that a chronic immune response can damage our heart. In response we need to take an active role in keeping our immune system in good shape. Here are five tips for creating a healthy heart:

  1. Keep your teeth and gums healthy. Cavities, gingivitis, and missing teeth are strong predictors of cardiovascular problems. Doctors theorize that bacteria from our mouth can enter the blood stream and cause problems throughout our bodies including our heart. Good oral hygene should be a regular part of a healthy routine
  2. QUIT SMOKING ! Smoking causes inflammation of the inner lining of the arteries. This causes damage that never has a chance to heal. This causes plaque build up and eventually can cause a heart attack
  3. Loose the belly fat. This can be very difficult, however fat in the abdominal area secrets harmful proteins into the bloodstream. So it is important to exercise, perhaps just walking every day, to help keep our belly under control
  4. Change your diet. This can be a challenge – however – doctors have found that what we eat is related to our heart health. Eat foods that are good for your heart – foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids like olive oil, walnuts, and salmon. Foods such as tomatoes, blueberries, eggplants have anti-inflammatory effects that can help your heart.

Doctors are still sorting out the connections between lifestyle, the immune system and the heart. As they learn more we will learn more. In the mean time it just makes good sense to follow these five tips and take good care of your immune system and your heart.