While much of the attention is focused on men and heart disease, women too are affected by heart disease. It is extremely important that women educate themselves on the risks and symptoms of heart disease. Heart disease affects men and women differently and the most well known symptoms for men rarely occur in women.
In this series, I will report about
- heart disease,
- it's risk factors,
- the impact of high cholesterol and high blood pressure on your heart
- lifestyle changes that you can make to live life with heart disease, reduce heart disease conditions and prevent heart disease from the start.
Knowledge is power in all aspects of life! The more you know about heart disease, the more you can do to prevent it and live a long and healthy life. Let's begin with cholesterol.
How Cholesterol Affects Your Heart
The heart works hard to pump that blood throughout the entire body of blood vessels. It is forced to work even harder when we don’t take care of it. You may know something about cholesterol, but keep reading to find out how it can be unfriendly to your heart.
Cholesterol is a waxy-type of fat found in the body. It is produced in the liver mainly, but also in the reproductive organs and the adrenal glands. It is transported through the body as lipoproteins in the blood to sites where it is needed.
Cholesterol is not all bad. It does have a function inside your body, in the right amounts. Cholesterol helps with the integrity of cellular membranes. Because it is insoluble in water (for the most part) it can control what substances go into and out of the cell.
Cholesterol is an integral part of many hormones – estrogen and testosterone are just two of them. These sex hormones are important during puberty and beyond for proper development and reproduction. So, don’t doom this naturally occurring substance too soon.
The Problem with Cholesterol
Now, you have heard about good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. You probably know what foods contain which but do you know what it does in your body?
As stated, the liver produces most of the cholesterol. If more is needed, it is processed from the foods we eat. There are healthy fats and not so healthy ones that we eat every day. The unhealthy ones come from processed baked goods, candy bars, fatty meats and the like. Eating these foods once in a while is okay but eating them often and in large amounts affects your body, specifically your heart and blood vessels.
You only need 20% of cholesterol from food. Check the labels. Eating foods that contain cholesterol is not a good choice. Instead, choose foods and ingredients that contain good cholesterol like unsaturated oils (olive, flaxseed, coconut) and foods with healthy fats (nuts, cold water fish).
In your body, bad fats are metabolized just like the good ones. LDL (low density lipoproteins) is the bad fats. They are an oxidized form of fat that is quite sticky and can attach to artery walls where they harden into plaque.
These plaques narrow the opening through which blood has to pass resulting in less blood that can pass. To get less blood through the same vessels, the heart has to pump harder. If the narrowed vessels are coronary arteries, then the heart is not receiving enough blood to do its job properly. Compromised blood flow can lead to a heart attack.
The good news is that good fats contribute to HDL levels, or good cholesterol. It travels around the bloodstream picking up stray bad cholesterol and ridding the body of it. Higher HDL levels work to prevent the buildup of cholesterol plaques.
Now that you know about cholesterol, you can choose foods that will help your heart do its job and reduce your risk of stroke or heart attack.