Monday, 25 January 2016

Coronary Heart Disease

Benjamin Maglajac

Coronary Heart Disease

What is Coronary Heart Disease

According to the American National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is a disease where fatty deposits called plaque builds up on the inside of the coronary blood artery. The gradual build up of this fatty material inside an artery causes the flowing path of the blood to narrow and is called atherosclerosis (Figure 1). This condition then leads to hindering of proper supply of the heart with oxygen rich blood

     Figure A shows the location of the heart in the body. Figure B shows a normal coronary artery with normal blood flow. The inset image shows a cross-section of a normal coronary artery. Figure C shows a coronary artery narrowed by plaque. The buildup of plaque limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood through the artery. The inset image shows a cross-section of the plaque-narrowed artery.

The Effects of CHD

Due to the decreased flow of blood towards the heart the heart muscle will not be sufficiently supplied with oxygen which makes it unable to work properly. Effects of that can be a pain in the chest called angina. Similar symptomes which can occur due to atherosclerosis in the coronary heart artery are arhythmiasin, problems with the rate or rithm of the heartbeat or heart attack which can lead to death. According to CHD is one of the most common causes of death in the US and Europe and its symptoms are causing 2.5 million hospitalizations every year.

Factors leading to CHD

The plaque causing CHD is made up of cholesterol and other waste substances. According to the build up of these waste substances inside the arteries is fostered by the following factors.

-         Family History of CHD

-          high cholesterol level in the blood: as cholesterol is one of the main components of plaque, a high concentration of it in the blood can cause it to build up on the inside walls of the arteries. However we also have to take the level concentration of the two different lipoproteins in the blood into consideration. Low density lipoproteins (LDL) transport cholesterol from the liver to the cells while high density lipoproteins (HDL). While LDL tends to build up and form plaque, a low level of HDL increases the risk of getting

-          high blood pressure:  high blood pressure damages the inner artery walls, which makes waste materials more likely to build up and form plaque

-          diabetes: diabetes, caused by high blood sugar levels increases the risk of plaque building up inside the arteries

-          smoking: carbon dioxide and nicotine in the smoke make the heart work faster and thereby increase the blood pressure. Furthermore the increase the risk of blood clots. Other chemicals in cigarette smoke can damage the lining of the coronary arteries, leading to furring of the arteries

-          lack of exercise: regular exercise helps to clear arteries. If there is a lack of exercise the risk of plaque building up increases

Correlations of CHD and our diet

Reading about the causes of CHD it becomes clear that many of these causes should be preventable with help of a healthy diet. The risk of getting diabetes for example can be lowered by renouncing foods that contain processed sugars such as sweets or sugary drinks. Instead it is better to eat a lot of fruits as a source of sugar. Furthermore it is important to know that saturated fats and trans fats (artificial fats) which are found in foods like cheese, cream or sausages increase the level of LDL in our blood and therefore increase the risk of CHD. So instead we should rather eat saturated fats which can be found in fish or nuts. Also, salt should be limited in a healthy diet as it raises the blood pressure and therefor increases the risk of getting CHD.
Although it seems very logic that a healthy diet can prevent some of the causes of CHD there is not much evidence actually proving this thesis. In order to find a direct correlation between diet and CHD scientists would have to collect the data of many people who would all have to stay on the same diet for a long time. It explains itself why it is hard to control the variables in such an experiment.


"Coronary Heart Disease - Causes ." Coronary Heart Disease. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.
"What Is Coronary Heart Disease?" - NHLBI, NIH. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.
"Heart Disease." Heart-healthy Diet: 8 Steps to Prevent Heart Disease. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.


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