by Dr. Iain Corness
Deadly Sins? There’s seven of them!
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.
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 extra on your back and tell
me how you feel at the end of a week. Tired? Of course. And your heart is
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.