What is 'Heart disease', or 'coronary heart disease' ?

The heart muscle is living and needs food and oxygen to survive. There are arteries within the heart muscle which supply the food and oxygen to the heart muscle. These arteries are known as coronary arteries. When one or more of these arteries in the heart get narrowed, or partially blocked, then it leads to coronary artery disease. When one or more of these arteries get

blocked then some part of the heart muscle does not get food and oxygen. This condition is called a heart attack.

The term, Coronary artery disease is used for problems which include: angina, heart attack, and heart failure.

(It may be confusing as there are other heart conditions such as heart valve problems, congenital heart problems, etc. However, these are not usually included when we talk about 'heart disease').

The root cause of most cases of coronary artery disease or cardiovascular disease is a build up of atheroma - a fatty deposit within the inside lining of arteries. A blockage caused by the development of complex atheromatous plaques, composed of inflamed tissues and fatty deposits on the inner surface of the artery. These plaques develop slowly over time and may cause chronic restriction of blood flow leading to pain on exertion (angina) or it may lead to as acute blockage. This most often occurs when the irregular, inflamed surface of the plaque leads to the formation of a blood clot. When this occurs a region of heart muscle is suddenly deprived of blood and gets damaged. This is what is known as a heart attack. If the damage is relatively limited the heart can recover but major damage can lead to death. Similar degeneration of arteries in the brain leads to loss of blood supply and stroke or death. Smoking and high levels of blood cholesterol, associated with high intakes of saturated fat, are both major risk factors for these plaques, coronary artery disease and strokes.

Cardiovascular Disease and stroke. The accumulation of cholesterol, as deposits, within atheromateous Atheroma and plaques may be accelerated by oxidative damage to the low density lipoproteins (LDL). Such damage can be prevented by high intakes of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables help to protect against heart disease. Antioxidants from fruits and vegetables in their natural unique combinations with micronutrients and fibre, help to protect against heart disease. Lifestyle factors that can reduce the risk of forming atheroma and developing cardiovascular diseases include: not smoking, choosing healthy foods, regular physical activity, keeping your weight and waist size down, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol. If you have a high risk of developing a coronary artery disease /cardiovascular disease, drug treatment to reduce blood pressure and/or cholesterol may also be advised. A daily low dose of aspirin is also advised for some people at high risk.

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