Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the number one killer in North America. These diseasessuch as heart attack, stroke, angina pectoris, atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis, and high blood pressureand their risk factors are so interrelated that it is very difficult to say where it all begins. One place to look when sorting this out is with atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is the buildup of plaque in the arteries. The danger is that plaque can lead to aneurysms and blood clots, and clots in turn can result in thrombosis, heart attack, and stroke.
High cholesterol levels bring increased risk. As LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) levels increase, CVD risk increases. When other risk factors are present, risk increases even more. A persons lipid levels are also affected by age, sex, heredity, and diet.
High blood pressure increases the hearts workload and can lead to increased arterial damage, opening the door further for atherosclerosis. High blood pressure is also the biggest risk factor for stroke. When high blood pressure exists with obesity, smoking, high blood cholesterol levels, or diabetes, the risk of heart attack or stroke increases several times.
Obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and diabetes are closely linked risk factors. Those who are overweight are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke even if they have no other risk factors. The weight itself is not the culprit; rather, the excess pounds concentrate other risk factors. Obesity has a negative influence on blood pressure and cholesterol, and may lead to diabetes. And, of course, one of the reasons for obesity is a sedentary lifestyle.
Stress is also a contributing factor. Research indicates that there is a relationship between the risk of developing coronary heart disease and stress. This is because stress releases certain chemicals, which can increase heart rate and raise blood pressure. Stress also contributes indirectly to CVD, as people under stress may smoke and drink more than those who lead stress-free lives.
Fortunately, many of the risk factors associated with CVD can be lessened through the wise use of dietary supplements and implementation of lifestyle solutions.