by Dr. Iain Corness
The Seven Deadly Sins!
Were you aware that heart disease is
still one of the greatest killers of mankind, ranking a strong second after
the Thailand motorcycle riders road toll - OK, I exaggerated that a little,
but the road toll in this country is a blight on the face of the community.
But it will stay unchecked.
Interestingly, if you look at the major causes of death by development of
the countries, in the high income countries death toll comes from heart
disease, stroke and lung cancer, middle income countries have stroke, heart
disease and lung disease and for the low income countries it is heart
disease, respiratory infections and then HIV/AIDS.
There are many reasons for the differences, including dietary,
socio-economic, educational, development of health services and tobacco and
alcohol abuse. However, this week I am only going to address heart disease,
and the seven deadly ‘sins’ that can predict your likelihood of getting (and
suffering from) heart disease.
1. High Blood Pressure: 20 percent of elderly people suffer from this
condition. Imagine trying to blow through a long tube. If the tube becomes
constricted for any reason, you will have to blow harder, increasing the
pressure. Blood pressure is the same - if the arteries are constricted or
less pliable, it takes a greater pressure to force the blood around. The
heart has to work harder to produce the increased pressure, and eventually
the heart gets tired and fails.
2. High cholesterol: High cholesterol foods such as egg yolk, offal,
animal brain, animal fats, dairy products, seafood, oyster, squid, etc,
leave deposits in the blood vessel walls. As a result, the fat “plaque” on
the vessel walls obstructs the blood flow and this will eventually cause
heart disease, as per the first deadly sin above.
3. Smoking: Smoking is a primary factor in the causation of coronary
artery disease. Smokers are at a much higher risk, even two times more than
non-smokers. Smoking increases adrenaline, which causes an increased heart
rate, increased blood pressure and lowers the amount of oxygen carried by
4. Diabetes: Diabetic people have twice the risk of congestive heart
failure than people with normal blood sugar levels, due to their increased
weight (see number 5) and high cholesterol levels produced in the blood.
5. Obesity: People who are fatter than average have to face a 30-40
percent increase in risk of heart disease compared to thin people. In just
carting around the extra weight, the heart has to work harder (and the knee
and hip joints wear out). Try walking around with 10 kg backpack and tell me
how you feel at the end of a week. Tired? Of course. And your heart is tired
6. Stress: Stress is not totally bad for us, as it keeps you going,
and in an appropriate level actually stimulates our curiosity and
motivation; however, by getting over-stressed, adrenaline levels are
increased and this may lead to abnormal heart function. Though stress is not
the main cause of heart disease, it can make the artery walls less flexible,
which is the beginning of heart disease.
7. Lack of exercise: Exercise is the best way to increase high
density lipoprotein (HDL) - “good” cholesterol that prevents the arteries
becoming abnormal. By exercising, blood pressure, body weight, and the
possibility of thrombosis will be reduced.
So you can see just how these seven risk factors all are inter-related. Keep
the arteries clean, watch the diet and ensure you have a reasonable level of
exercise. Check the Blood Pressure and stop smoking.
Remember too, that as you get older, the chances (and risks) of heart
disease are higher. (Young males are more likely to die from clumsy
motorcycle parking.) Statistically, men aged over 40 years as well as the
postmenopausal women have a higher risk than adolescents.
Despite our knowledge, we still cannot predict exactly when the demise will
come, but looking at the big picture, we do know that smoking, overweight,
unfit diabetics with high blood pressure and high cholesterol do not live as
long as non-smoking, fit, lean people with normal blood pressure, and normal
blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Do you know your levels? A brief medical check-up will tell you.