The heart muscle requires constant flow of blood rich in oxygen and nutrients, just like any other organ. This blood reaches the heart through two coronary arteries that feed the heart muscle with their branches. If fat deposits (atheromas) are created in the veins, these passages narrow down and do not supply the heart with a sufficient amount of oxygen and food. Moreover, narrowing of the coronary arteries can lead to blood clotting, and a clot (thrombus) can clog the artery; this condition is known as coronary sclerosis. When the heart starts to beat faster, as a reaction to physical or nervous stress, it requires more oxygen and food; if very narrow or obstructed arteries can not meet this requirement, angina pectoris occurs. If the blood flow to one part of the heart muscle decreases due to clot in one of the coronary arteries, a heart attack occurs.
Coronary sclerosis is common in the West, and it accounts for 30% of deaths. It affects men more often than women. From the consequences of this disease, in the United Kingdom, one out of 170 men between the ages of 45 and 64 dies per year; comparable numbers for women are 1 out of 500. Frequency is much smaller in countries with lower standards. Here are some additional facts:
– coronary artery disease mostly affects men; however, women are at bigger risk after menopause, and women over the sixties are almost as sensitive as men
– smokers are at least twice as sensitive as non-smokers; in fact, deaths due to this disorder among people between ages 34 and 45 are five times more common in smokers
– people with high blood pressure and diabetics are at greater risk
– the disease is hereditary; you are exposed to greater dangers if someone from your family has had this disease
– obese people and people who eat a lot are also at a greater risk, especially if they eat large amounts of fatty food
– people who work while sitting are at a bigger risk than people who are doing manual work
– women over the age of 35 who take contraceptive pills are at a bigger risk than women who are using other contraceptives
– people living in soft water regions are more sensitive than people in hard water regions
If coronary sclerosis is not treated, the arteries are becoming more clogged and the heart is not sufficiently supplied with blood, so there is a risk of heart attack that may end in death. However, the heart often recovers after a strong seizure. Moreover, many people live for years with coronary sclerosis and have no problems; although some are forced to limit their daily activities due to frequent seizures of angina pectoris, they can live a relatively active life if the disease is under control.
However, sometimes the heart muscle is so damaged that pumping is weakened, and cardiac (heart) decompensation occurs.
What to do?
For advice on what to do if you experience any of the major symptoms of coronary sclerosis, read the articles on angina pectoris and coronary thrombosis. If you are only concerned that you may be prone to this disease, use the sel-help measures that we described below. Sudden death is very often the first symptom of the disease. The following self-help recommendations are useful not only when you already have heart problems, but also when you want to improve your chances by avoiding them.
If you are worried about (or just interested in) your heart condition, contact your doctor who can refer you to some of the tests that are mentioned in the angina pectoris article. If you are over 40, you must also control blood pressure.
Self-help: there is still no way to dissolve the atheroma formed in the coronary arteries, but you can take steps to prevent or slow down the formation of new atheromass. Quit smoking or at least try to reduce the number of cigarettes. If you are obese, try to lose som weight. There is an undeniable link between nutrition in some countries and the incidence of coronary sclerosis. Because of this, cardiologists specialize in certain nutrition guidelines. After the majority of population in the USA have adopted the so-called ”anti-coronary way of life”, the mortality due to coronary sclerosis has decreased. here are some of advices that you should follow:
– eat only a small amount of butter, cream and fatty foods of all kinds
– eat less meat, remove fat and do not fry the meat; instrad. eat grilled meat
– eat no more than three eggs a week
– eat lots of fruits and vegetables
– reduce salt; this advice is especially important for people who have high blood pressure (food with a small amount of salt can lower blood pressure and significantly reduce the risk of coronary sclerosis)
– take regular physical activities; there is valid evidence that energetic physical activity two or three times a week reduces the risk of coronary sclerosis – it is important to start gradually and then continue on a regular basis
Professional help: if you have high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe antihypertonics for lowering the pressure. If you are a woman and you take contraceptive pills, and if you are over 35, or if you smoke a lot or if someone in your family has had coronary sclerosis, your doctor will probably recommend another form of contraception.
If the blood sample shows high levels of cholesterol or other fat in the blood, the doctor will recommend a remedy for reducing fat content. However, since such agents may have unpleasant side effects and must be taken continuously to be effective, most doctors provide them only to people with very high blood cholesterol content or to people who have high cholesterol content AND who are threatened by other factors, such as hypertension (high blood pressure).
A ”sick” coronary artery can occasionally be replaced by part of the vein from the patient’s leg; the transplanted vein is usually “well received” because it is the patient’s own tissue. Such a surgical procedure is usually recommended for young active people who have become heavily disabled due to angina pectoris. The transplanted part mitigates angina pectoris, but has no effect on the underlying disease. Although this operation can be subjected to people of all ages, its success depends partly on the general health of the patient.
Medications and surgical procedures can somewhat relieve some of the problems created by coronary sclerosis, but in the end, you are the only one you can protect yourself best. If you continue to eat unhealthy food and lead a passive life, ignoring all advices from your doctor, you are facing an ever greater risk of heart disease that may end with your death.