The heart is responsible for getting blood around the body including to itself. The coronary arteries are responsible for supplying the heart with its own blood supply. It is a muscle after all, and in order to keep working it needs oxygen and nutrients that blood provides. When these arteries become blocked the heart ceases to get blood and can stop causing a heart attack.
Chronic blocking of the coronary arteries with plaque is called coronary artery disease. This condition can develop over years even decades. Without an imaging test to look at your vessels, there is no way to know you have coronary artery disease. However, there plenty of things you can do to reduce your risk and prevent it in the first place. The plaque that builds up in the arteries comes mainly from the foods we eat and our general lifestyle. A diet high in “bad” fats, sugar, and sodium contribute to this condition as well as smoking and a sedentary lifestyle. Typically someone who suffers from this condition also has several co-morbidities, other diseases/conditions that can stem from the same causes. These commonly include type II diabetes, peripheral artery disease, aortic aneurysms, and hypertension. Smoking is one of the main contributing factors to the build up of plaque in all arteries.
Ironically, the blockage is caused as part of the body’s healing process. When the wall of the blood vessel is damaged the body sends fatty deposits to seal it up. Then as blood passes by the deposit more fat that is present in the blood is deposited on top the initial layer. It’s like when you cut yourself and a scab forms. Imagine if the scab just kept getting bigger and bigger. Same concept. Eventually the deposits, plaque, block the vessel. The book Diabesity described diabetes as shards of glass running the blood stream cutting as it goes. Smoking, excess sugar, and fat can weaken and damage the smooth walls of the arteries setting off this healing reaction.
Coronary artery disease can be difficult to diagnose but if you have the risk factors (smoker, sedentary lifestyle, hypertension, overweight/obese, diabetes, family history, high cholesterol, stress) it may be worth a trip to the doctor if you experience (better yet before you experience) the following:
- Chest pain (angina)
- Shortness of breath
- Heart attack
The treatment for coronary artery disease if discovered prior to a heart attack is medical management (prescriptions and regular physician visits), lifestyle changes (exercise, diet, stress reduction) and potentially surgery to bypass the blocked artery or balloon and stent it open. After a heart attack the same holds true but add in rehabilitation and possibly a long hospital stay. Learn more about heart attack and stroke here.
Heart attack is the leading cause of death for everyone and coronary artery disease is the primary cause. Reduce your risk by adjusting your diet to get plenty of vitamins and minerals and get moving! The body is designed to move. Movement, especially from cardiovascular exercise, trains the blood vessels to pump blood efficiently throughout the body. Exercise is also a great stress reducer, burns up fat and extra glucose so that less is in your blood stream to begin with.
Black women are more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases due to lack of early diagnosis, appropriate treatment. It’s time to stop that fact in its tracks. Exercise, eat right and get your heart checked. Don’t be a statistic. Learn more about this serious condition at the American Heart Association. Share this post in your community and with someone you love.
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