Heart attacks are caused by ischemia. The word "ischemia" is derived from two Greek words meaning "restriction of blood". In short, then, a heart attack occurs when there is insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle.
Oxygen is carried in red blood cells to tissues throughout the body. When blood flow is interrupted the tissue becomes starved for oxygen. If the lack of oxygen is acute enough the tissue can die.
Heart muscle tissue (myocardium) is very sensitive to inadequate blood supply. When the coronary arteries feeding the heart become clogged the heart becomes starved for oxygen. Permanent damage, and even death, of heart muscle tissue can occur.
So the real question is…
What causes the coronary arteries to become clogged?
Most often the answer is…
Without question the leading underlying cause of heart attacks isatherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the build up of plaque on the inner walls of the arteries. Plaque is composed of…
As plaque builds up on the interior lining of the coronary artery blood flow to the heart can be significantly reduced. The heart overworks in the absence of adequate oxygen often resulting in pain known as angina.
More damage can occur when the plaque becomes brittle and ruptures. Ruptured plaque results in clots that rapidly (a few minutes) and greatly restrict blood flow. This instant change in oxygen supply results in the injury or death of myocardial (heart muscle) tissue. Heart muscle death is what we call a heart attack.
It is no secret that atherosclerosis development is promoted by many factors that are more or less within our control. Atherosclerosis develops when the walls of the arteries become damaged. This damage is often caused by…
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Are there health issues – in addition to your heart health – that concern you? Like…
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Though controllable factors for atherosclerosis are considered the primary underlying causes of heart attacks, they are not the only causes.
Some researchers believe that atherosclerosis can occur because of the intracellular bacteria,Chlamydia. Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis
Myeloperoxidase (MPO) is another suspected cause of heart attacks. It is a protein secreted by white blood cells in the presence of infection. It both signals inflammation and releases a bleach-like substance that damages the cardiovascular system.
Myeloperoxidase can cause LDL cholesterol to oxidize.
LDL oxidation is a strong promoter of atherosclerosis.
Further, the bleach-like substance is believed to directly damage arterial linings producing unstable plaque.
Another agent that increases when infection is present is interleukin-6. People who are hospitalized for chest pain and have high blood levels of interleukin-6 are at increased risk for dying of heart attacks.
In some cases, heart attacks are caused by a severe spasm in a coronary artery. The spasm causes the artery to narrow and blood flow to an area of the heart decreases or stops. The cause of spasms is unknown, and one can occur in normal arteries as well as those partially blocked by atherosclerosis.
Other possible causes may include…
Heart attacks are not always predictable. However, most of the time heart attacks are the result of years of habits that promote atherosclerosis.
If you smoke, please stop.
Smoking damages the lining of the arteries thereby promoting plaque development.
If you have a diet not conducive to heart health then make changes. Diets high in cholesterol and triglycerides promote heart disease. Heart disease raises the risk for heart attacks.
If you have diabetes make every effort to control it. Heart disease is a very serious complication of diabetes. Diabetes damages the lining of the arteries thereby increasing plaque formation.
Keeping your blood sugar levels within optimal ranges can prevent or delay blood vessel damage. Also be extra careful to control your blood pressure. High blood pressure promotes heart disease and heart damage in anyone. It is particularly damaging for diabetics.
Of course keep your cholesterol and triglycerides down. High cholesterol and triglycerides are a problem for anyone. The problem is even more severe when coupled with diabetes.
Watch your sugar intake whether you are diabetic or not. Sugar is easily converted into triglycerides. Also, high blood sugar damages the lining of your arteries.
Of course get plenty of exercise. Moderate exercise discourages coronary heart disease and heart attacks.
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