Plaque Attack and Your Heart
According to the American Heart Association heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and woman in the World!
- It claimed 17.3 million people. That's almost 1 in 4 people!
- Approximately 2,150 people die each day from heart disease.
- African-American women are more likely to suffer heart disease the African-American men.
- 735,000 people suffer a heart attack each year. 120,000 of those will die.
Heart Attack Facts
In just one year I have stood by while family and dear friends passed away due to heart attacks. I can't stop heart attacks from happening, but maybe I can help someone understand what is happening inside their body that is causing this heart attack thing to invade their body.
My dear friend, who passed away recently, on Halloween, was a top notch heart surgeon in the Bay Area. He had a massive heart attack. He practiced poor health habits, and he knew it. Several items listed as contributing to heart attacks, he did, or didn't do. He would lecture his patients about healthy eating habits and regular exercise. I would ask him, "Why don't you heed your own warnings?" His response was always, "Doctors make the worst patients." He was right. The advise he gave his patients, he didn't take himself and he paid the ultimate price.
Now you, or someone you know, has had a heart attack, or is in danger of having one? You'll find answers to many of your questions in the words that follow. I am not a doctor, but I have learned a lot from my dear friend, the heart surgeon, before he passed away.
Maintaining a healthy heart is not difficult to understand. It is best if you take care of your heart all of your life, just like the rest of your body. Regardless, anytime you change your lifestyle in favor of your health is a good time!
There are some things that we do that contribute to a heart attack, and there are some that are out of our control. What are self-inflicted contributors?
- Lack of exercise
- Poor diet
- Illegal drug use
We acquire habits that are not heart healthy and we continue to practice them even when trouble begins IE: angina (chest pain caused by restricted blood flow to the heart). This is where I've found people are either not paying attention to what the doctor has just told them, they just don't care (my heart surgeon friend), and/or have no idea how these things could play a roll in their heart health. If we heed to the warnings we hear all our life, or when the heart specialist tells us there's a problem, we can deter or avoid a heart attack.
There are also conditions that are out of our control that can lead to a heart attack. Naturally occurring risk factors are:
- Autoimmune conditions
- Family history
- High cholesterol
Even the naturally occurring factors can be manipulated to your favor. To do this I believe we need to understand what exactly is going on in our body, right now, that leads to a heart attack. Then, you can take action to reduce your risk.
Check Your Heart Smarts!
Cardiovascular disease claims more lives than what?
Your Heart Right this Minute
Inside your body, right now, today, you have a network of veins and arteries coursing though your brain, arms, stomach, legs, all the way down to your toes.
What are these veins and arteries doing? Transporting oxygen rich blood to every piece of tissue your body is made up of.
Who's in there? Who's doing this transporting? Your heart is. Try this:
- Make a loose fist with your hand
- Now squeeze your fist tight like there's a pebble in it your trying to crush!
- Then immediately stop squeezing and let it be a loose fist again.
- Do this over and over in a rhythmic fashion. Squeeze, release, squeeze, release, etc.
This is your heart beating and it's about the same size too! Each thump of your heart is the heart valves opening and closing (actually we only hear the closing thump, not the opening). If you sit quietly you can feel the pumping of your heart in your chest. You can actually hear the steady whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, of your blood as it's being pumped through your body.
Your heart is the only thing in there pumping all that blood! Day after day, week after week, year after year. Any of the contributing factors listed above will make the hearts pumping job, harder.
How About a Heart Smart Quiz!
The information in this hub is assuming you are healthy and have talked with your doctor about exercise and whether it would be acceptable for you. By no means assume that you can exercise without first speaking with your doctor.
Plaque Building Up
It's All About the Plaque
Plaque, you've heard the word before. Most people associate plaque with their teeth. That whitish, yellow, film that grows on your teeth when you don't brush them. Plaque also forms in arteries and veins. At first it is somewhat malleable. Exercise and diet will keep it at bay.
When plaque has been left to set on your teeth it becomes tartar. You can't brush tartar off. A dentist must scrape it off with a metal dental tool.
When plaque builds up in your arteries and veins a doctor can't just scrape it off like a dentist. This is your heart we're talking about! You just don't call your doctor and ask to make an appointment for a heart cleaning.
You most likely won't notice when plaque is building up. It's when it causes the arteries to harden (atherosclerosis) is when you'll notice. At that point it seriously hinders, or completely blocks the flow of blood. Just as the plaque hardens over time and becomes tartar, plaque in your veins does the same thing, hardens. Then, to have it removed your doctor must use a device that scrapes the walls of your veins. An unpleasant experience I'm sure. The scraping can be done if it is caught before a heart attack. Even then, they can still scrape, or exchange the arteries or veins for better ones somewhere else on your body. My heart surgeon friend preferred taking a piece of the artery on the inside of the leg behind the knee. Apparently there's a big, juicy, one there.
To make blood flow simple to understand I look at it like a garden hose, it's that simple. Now if you take sludge and shove it down your garden hose, it's similar to you eating a greasy hamburger, or eating donuts. What do you think is going to happen? Eventually the sludge will build up inside the hose and when you turn the water on, it won't be able to pass the sludge build up. If you keep turning up the water pressure at the spigot enough pressure may cause the hose to burst. This is exactly what happens with your heart except it isn't sludge its plaque. Fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste, all built up on the walls of your arteries and veins and your heart turns up the pressure to force the blood through.
How do you get rid of it? Well, before we go into that, lets talk about how to prevent it from occurring in the first place. This is where the self-inflicted causes come into play.
What would be ideal is starting at day one, eat a healthy diet, eliminate too much fat, sodium and saturated fats. At this point, I believe, most people reading this hub are far past that age. The earlier you can start a heart healthy lifestyle the better, but anytime is better than never!
- First things first, stop smoking! Nicotine irritates the inner lining of your veins, increasing the growth of plaque! So, just put them cigarettes down, you won't regret it, I promise!
- Exercise gets your blood pumping through the arteries and veins, causing a higher than resting friction, and friction can rub some of that plaque away or prevent it from sticking because it's moving by too fast to stick. Like the garden hose, what do you do when there's something, like some sludge, in the line? If it isn't blocked too much, you turn up the water pressure right! Make the water force that sludge through! Well, do the same for your heart with exercise. Push that plaque through!
- A low fat, low sugar, low cholesterol diet is optimum. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and poultry.
Medication prescribed by your doctor is of the utmost importance to be taken as prescribed. Keep in mind that the medication is lowering the pressure in your veins by artificial means. In other words, what ever caused your blood pressure to rise (plaque, hardened arteries) is still there. Blood pressure medication doesn't clean these things away. Let's go back to the garden hose. So, the garden hose has had all kinds of liquid products go through it, and it's building up inside. This makes the water flow slower, so what do you do? Turn up the water at the spigot until it flows like you need to water your garden. That's exactly what your heart is doing, turning up the flow to get past the blockage and get that oxygen rich blood flowing to your vitals. When you take blood pressure medicine the pressure is turned down. When the pressure is turned down, you don't get the flow you need/want because the blockage is still there, but now your heart isn't trying as hard to force it through. This results in lower blood pressure, everywhere. Standing up too quickly will surely set you back down with low blood pressure. Some other issues include:
- Erectile disorders for men.
These side effects are mild (speak for myself right. That last one can be a deal breaker). The benefits far out weigh the side effects, but the blockage is still there. Too many times I've witnessed friends and family prescribed blood pressure medication and when I ask them, "Well, what about what is causing the high blood pressure? Are you going to leave the clog there?" They don't know what to say. Their blood pressure is down and that's all that matters right? Wrong. What matters is what caused it in the first place. They plan on taking the medication forever instead of addressing that there's a blockage going on that's why the pressure went up!
Masking the problem by lowering your blood pressure is great, for a minute. The problem is still there, band-aided over it, it will continue and become worse. Blood pressure medication is not fixing the problem, its masking it. Your hose still has all that sludge in it, you've merely turned down the pressure. The sludge will continue building until it completely blocks the hose. Then it's just a matter of time before the hose blows.
One Last Heart Smart Quiz
Start early in life eating a healthy diet and exercise! If you have a pet, take them for a walk! Do you have grandchildren? Take them to the park! Are you alone with no pets, take a drive to the beach and walk along the shore watching the gorgeous sunset and enjoy the peace and time for meditation! Exercising doesn't have to cost anything. Some people feel motivated if they join a gym, but you don't have to join a gym. What you have to do is get yourself off that couch/chair and move your body. Get that blood pumping!
Exercise for the Sedentary!
If you've been very sedentary (sitting around), or if the weather is too hot to go outside, or raining. It won't take much to get that blood pumping if your sedentary so try a couple of these ideas:
- Vacuum the rug.
- Sweep and mop the floor.
- Babysit your grandchildren.
- Babysit somebody else's grand kids.
- Clip your dogs toenails (This can be tough on them little dogs! I bet you can do it!)
- Give the dog a bath
- Play an instrument (Even if there's nobody to hear it but you. That's my favorite time to play)
- Sit up and listen to someone play.
- Teach someone how to play an instrument.
- Make your bed.
- Make everyone's bed.
- Chop carrots and celery for a snack tray and store the extra in the fridge.
- Bake something healthy.
- Walk on a treadmill if you have one.
- Walk around the house if you don't have a treadmill.
It's going to take some effort on your part to get up and do something. Procrastination is plaques best friend because nothing is happening to stop it from growing. Go kill some plaque walking to the park instead.