You may have heard the term ‘heart disease’ a lot, but what is it really and why should you know about it? Our heart plays a crucial role in the health of our physical bodies as it pumps blood and oxygen to our organs, giving us the ability to go about our daily lives. Heart disease occurs when there are blockages or build-up of plaque in arteries, which restricts blood flow to the heart and can lead to heart attacks or strokes.
Heart disease is the #1 cause of death in Trinidad and Tobago, with mortality rates higher than cancer, road accidents and crime1. In fact, heart disease accounts for 33% of all deaths in Trinidad and Tobago, according to World Health Organization (WHO). Whether you’re genetically predisposed to the condition or looking for ways to prevent its occurrence, here are a couple of things you should know.
What are the causes of heart disease?
Aside from genetic predisposition, there are a few precursors to heart disease which should be managed on a continual basis to ensure heart health and longevity. Two important factors to consider are:
I) High Cholesterol
We’ve all heard it before – having high cholesterol can be bad for your heart health. But firstly, what is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s naturally found in our bodies and plays an important role in the production of hormones, vitamin D and bile. Aside from naturally occurring in our bodies, cholesterol is also found in some foods such as eggs, meat and full-fat dairy products2.
If you’ve ever done a blood test for cholesterol, you’ll probably be familiar with the two (2) types of cholesterol: LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein). LDL is commonly known as ‘bad cholesterol’ because it combines with other elements within the bloodstream to form plaque which can stick to the artery walls. A build-up of plaque – also known as atherosclerosis – can be detrimental for your health, as it can narrow your arteries and increase your risk of heart attack, stroke and even death3.
II) Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural mechanism that occurs when the body attempts to protect itself from harm. It’s the body’s way of signalling the immune system that it needs to heal from wounds or injury, or perhaps ward itself from harmful viruses or bacteria4. When this happens, there may be symptoms such as redness, increased heat, swelling, pain or loss of function5 .
This type of inflammation is known as acute inflammation as it is short-term and occurs in response to a stimulus. However, this inflammatory response may become problematic when it occurs on a long-term, continual basis in the absence of injury, which is known as chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can have several uncomfortable, long-term symptoms if not sufficiently addressed, such as body pain, skin rashes, excessive mucus production and digestion issues. It can also lead to the growth of plaque and blood clots, which can cause heart attacks and stroke6. Lifestyle factors greatly contribute to chronic inflammation, including obesity, diet, smoking, stress and lack of sleep.
How to Reduce Your Risk for Heart Disease
Heart disease doesn’t happen overnight. While it can be strongly influenced by your biological make-up, your daily habits go a long way in its prevention. Here are a few tips on what you can do to reduce your risk of developing heart disease:
When it comes to your health, the food that you put into your body plays an important role in how well your heart can perform optimally. Dietary sources of bad cholesterol (LDL) include foods high in saturated fat (such as fatty red meats, butter, cheese and some vegetable oils) and foods containing trans fats (such as fried foods, processed foods and baked goods).
To reduce your LDL cholesterol level, incorporate foods such as oats, whole grains, beans and fatty fish into your diet.
You may have seen Jamieson’s Omega-3 and Turmeric recently at the pharmacies across the country, but are you aware of its benefits in helping to prevent heart disease? The unique formulation of this heart-healthy supplement combines the powerful properties of these two effective natural sources to reduce cholesterol and fight inflammation.
Omega-3 works to reduce cholesterol levels in the body and reduces the growth of plaque within the arteries. Curcumin – the active ingredient in turmeric –works to fight inflammation and helps to improve the lining of bloods vessels. In conjunction, these two super-ingredients work together to tackle the leading causes of heart disease in a single formula.
A physically active lifestyle can significantly lower your risk of developing heart disease and keep your overall health in check. Exercises that focus on cardiovascular health include swimming, brisk walking, running and cycling. Cardiovascular exercise works by strengthening your heart muscles and reducing blood pressure. Take small steps towards improving your heart health by incorporating some form of cardiovascular exercise into your daily regime.
Managing your risk of heart disease doesn’t happen overnight; it takes patience and dedication in changing your daily habits. Sticking to a healthier lifestyle will definitely be worth it in the long run and your heart will thank you for it.
- Noncommunicable diseases country profiles 2018. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/nmh/countries/tto_en.pdf?ua=1
- 11 High-Cholesterol Foods — Which to Eat, Which to Avoid. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/high-cholesterol-foods
- Atherosclerosis | National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). (2019). Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/atherosclerosis
- Science, L. (2019). What Is Inflammation? Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/52344-inflammation.html
- Chapter 3. The Acute Inflammatory Response | Concise Pathology, 3e | AccessPhysiotherapy | McGraw-Hill Medical. (2019). Retrieved from https://accessphysiotherapy.mhmedical.com/content.aspx?bookid=333§ionid=40013175&jumpsectionid=40013682
- Fight Inflammation to Help Prevent Heart Disease. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/fight-inflammation-to-help-prevent-heart-disease