All Americans should take cardiovascular disease seriously. Statistically, it is the most likely cause of our demise. In a recent study, cardiovascular disease accounted for one-third of all deaths in America. Most people think of heart attacks and strokes when they think of cardiovascular disease. The real picture is much larger. If I were to remove every vein and artery from your body there would be very little of you left. Every organ system is absolutely dependant on its supply of oxygen and nutrients from the cardiovascular system. Understanding this extensive network of pipes tells us the real story of this disease and how to prevent it.
Blood is amazing stuff. It flows like water in our veins; but given the right circumstances, it clumps into clots that stop us from bleeding to death if we suffer trauma. It is very important to keep our pipes in good working order. We wouldn’t want a clot to form in our pipes if we’re not bleeding; however, that is what happens in the case of most myocardial infarcts (heart attacks) and strokes. If you want to prevent cardiovascular disease, here are some things to watch for:
High blood pressure SUB
High blood pressure can wear out our vessels and heart. It causes our heart to work harder and grow larger. When I look at a chest X-ray, I can tell who is taking their blood pressure medications and who isn’t just by seeing how large their heart is. An overgrown heart tends to develop leaky valves and has to work even harder. It tends to fail much earlier than it would otherwise. High blood pressure also causes the slow destruction of our brains. It is the leading cause of dementia in the elderly.
When it comes to keeping our vessels wide open to allow the blood to flow through, we should think about cholesterol and fatty deposit in our vessels. Unfortunately diet has very little control in this. We make 90 percent of the bad cholesterol in our body from scratch; therefore the most that I have ever seen someone drop their cholesterol with diet and exercise is about 10 percent. This usually is not enough to get their number in the safe zone. Statin drugs work great at dropping the cholesterol by 50 percent and we have seen proof that those fatty deposits start to disappear with these medications.
Obesity and diabetes SUB
Obesity poses a great threat to our cardiovascular system and it is by far the hardest to treat. We have discovered that our belly fat is very dangerous. Belly fat is brown in color and makes several toxic chemicals which cause Type 2 diabetes and other diseases. It actually produces a hormone called Resistin which blocks our body’s insulin and sends our glucose levels thought the roof, which just decimates our vasculature. A full 95 percent of all Type 2 diabetics are obese; the connection with fat is indisputable. With the diagnosis of diabetes, the chances of death from a heart attack more than doubles. Obesity is also directly linked to high blood pressure.
If we keep our blood pressure low, our cholesterol in the appropriate range and our toxic belly fat at healthy levels, we should all be able to keep our pipes and pump functioning well into our 100s.
Dr. Michael MacMurray is an Internal Medicine physician at Vista Community Clinic. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (760) 631-5000 or visit www.vistacommunityclinic.org.
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