Cardiovascular diseases rank among the
top causes of death in the world. Heart disease can take many forms, but
the most dreaded by far is what is commonly called a "heart attack".
In most cases, a heart attack is caused by atherosclerosis of the
heart's arteries. A
heart attack happens when the blood supply to a part of the heart is
blocked or restricted. Although heart attacks can happen suddenly and be accompanied
by severe pain, most heart attacks start slowly with mild pain or
discomfort. A person having a heart attack may feel discomfort or a
feeling that something is not right, in the middle of the chest, which
can last from 30 minutes to 2 hours, or it can happen at intervals.
The feeling is like heavy pressure, squeezing or a sense of pain which
you will not be relieved even if you take a rest. You can also feel
discomfort in one or both arms, between the shoulders on the back, in
the neck, near the jaw or in the stomach. Shortness of breath or a
feeling of not being able to get enough air is often felt during a
heart attack. This can happen with or without chest discomfort. A
person suffering from a heart attack may also experience nausea,
vomiting, extreme fatigue, a feeling of light-headedness or sweating.
Atherosclerosis happens when there is a
narrowing of the arteries caused by fatty deposits (plaques) clogging
the arterial linings restricting the smooth flow of blood through the
arteries. Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found among the
lipids (fats) in the bloodstream and in all your body's cells.
Its key role is to form cell membranes, some hormones and other needed
tissue but an excessive amount of cholesterol in the blood is a major
risk factor for coronary heart disease, which can lead to a heart
attack. This excessive amount of cholesterol is known as
hypercholesterolemia. Cholesterol and other fats substances
cannot dissolve in our blood and they move by means of transportation
from special carriers of lipids and proteins called lipoproteins.
There are two major kinds of lipoproteins, that is, low density
lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL is
also known as the "good" cholesterol because it is believed that HDL
tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the
liver, where it is excreted from the body and HDL also removed excess
cholesterol from atherosclerotic plaques and thus slows their growth.
Therefore a low HDL level indicates a greater risk in suffering from
heart attack. On the other hand, LDL or "bad" cholesterol are
usually found most often in people with high concentrations of
cholesterol. Atherosclerotic plaques are mainly consist of a
mixture of LDL, decaying muscle cells, fibrous tissue, clumps of blood
platelets, cholesterol and sometimes calcium.
Heart attacks used to happen to people
in their middle age or older. These days, however, one hears of
younger men and women having heart problems. Research has shown
that by the age of 12, as many as 70 percent of children have fatty
deposits in their arteries. And there is mounting evidence to
show that an elevated cholesterol level in a child makes him more
likely to develop heart diseases later in life.
We are never too young to lead a
heart-healthy lifestyle. In order to achieve this good healthy
living, we should discover the benefits of good eating by changing our
habits, understanding and learning more about health and diet.