The Links Between Diet and Coronary Heart Disease

The Links Between Diet and Coronary Heart Disease

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The Links Between Diet and Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary heart disease is a disease of the arteries that causes damage
to, or malfunction of, the heart. It is the biggest killer in Britain
and is also the most expensive illness in the country.

When atherosclerosis - the accumulation of fatty material, calcium and
plaque (which is like a firm shell with a soft inner core containing
cholesterol and as blood hits it, the plaque may crack open and expose
its inner cholesterol core, which promotes blood clotting) in artery
walls - occurs in the lining of the coronary arteries they become
narrow, restricting the flow of blood. Because of this, the heart has
to work harder to force blood through the coronary arteries and this
can cause blood pressure to rise. It also makes it harder to get
oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle.

There are three forms of coronary heart disease:

· Angina pectoris – This causes great pain in the chest when
exercising, but goes when resting. The pain is causes by a severe
shortage of blood to the heart muscle.

· Heart attack – (Also known as myocardial infraction). This is when a
large branch of the coronary artery is blocked by a blood clot which
causes a severe shortage of oxygen to part of the heart muscle, which
therefore dies. This causes sudden and severe pain and could be fatal
unless treated immediately.

· Heart failure – This is when the heart weakens and fails to pump
efficiently due to a blockage of a main coronary artery.

People with high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol in their diet
tend to have high blood cholesterol levels.

Saturated fats are typically animal fats that are solid at normal room
temperature and include dairy products like milk and butter. It’s the
saturated fats that seem to influence the amount of cholesterol in the

Eating too much saturated fat is one of the major risk factors for
heart disease. A diet high in saturated fat causes cholesterol, a

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soft, waxy substance belonging to a group of chemicals known as
steroids, to build up in the arteries clogging them up. Eventually,
the arteries harden and narrow and this slows the flow of blood and
oxygen through them. The result is an increased pressure in the
arteries as well as strain on the heart to maintain adequate blood
flow throughout the body.

Because of its high calorie content, too much dietary fat also
increases the risk of heart disease in that it increases the
likelihood that a person will become obese, which is another risk
factor for heart disease because more strain is put on the heart and
blood pressure rises. High Salt intake also increases the risk of
heart disease.

The risk of heart disease decreases with high intake of antioxidants
(such as vitamin E and C found mostly in fruit and vegetables) because
they protect artery walls against atherosclerosis. It is also thought
that soluble fibre lowers blood cholesterol by binding bile acids
(which are made from cholesterol to digest dietary fats) and then
excreting them.
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