Smorgasbord Health Column – The Heart and some health issues – Angina and Atherosclerosis


I appreciate that many of you who have been kindly following the blog for a long time will have seen this post before. However, if you are new to Smorgasbord, I hope you will find interesting.

You will find other posts on the brain and nutrients in the Health Column in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-column-news-nutrients-health-conditions-anti-aging/

Last week I looked at the structure and function of the heart and this week a brief overview of the main causes of angina and heart disease which is atherosclerosis and that is where we should start when looking to change our lifestyle and diet.

Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries as a result of plaque that has built up in the arterial walls narrowing the blood vessels and restricting the flow of oxygen rich blood to the heart and other organs such as the brain. Atherosclerosis accounts for almost 75% of deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Plaque build up in arteriesWhat is Angina?

Angina (angina pectoris) is a type of temporary chest pain. There are a number of types but the two, stable and unstable both indicate that there is likely to be coronary heart disease.

Stable angina attacks occur after vigorous exercise that requires additional blood to be sent to the heart. An attack might last from one or two minutes to fifteen minutes. Activities that also increase the risk of an attack are cigarette smoking, stress, abrupt changes in temperature or altitude, heavy meals that are not given time to digest and sudden exertion such as running for a bus or upstairs. These types of attack are also described as “predictable” as they tend to happen between early morning and noon. One reason for this may be the body’s inability to go from a state of complete rest to fully active immediately on getting up in the morning. Like an old car, it takes time to get all functions working efficiently especially if arteries are blocked and oxygen is in short supply.

Unstable angina is more dangerous as it is also unpredictable and will last longer than fifteen minutes. It can occur at rest and without any previous history of heart disease and should be treated as an emergency as it could indicate that the person is just about to suffer a full heart attack.

What are the symptoms of Angina?

People who suffer from angina describe the pain as crushing, burning behind the breastbone and as if there is a weight resting on the chest. The pain can radiate out from the chest and affect the neck, arms, jaw and the abdomen. Women are more likely to experience abdominal pain during an angina episode and it makes it more difficult to establish the problem. The person might also feel light headed and experience a faster than normal heartbeat (arrhythmia)

Some attacks are accompanied by nausea, sweating confusion and dizziness. These kinds of symptoms, particularly in the elderly add to the difficulty of diagnosing the problem.

Whether the episode lasts a minute or longer you should get it checked out. There is a strong possibility that if the attack occurs after eating a very heavy meal that you might be suffering from indigestion. But, if this is happening frequently the causes need to be identified and treated.

However, if the pain has moved from under your diaphragm and you are experiencing discomfort in any of the other areas that I have mentioned above, and the attack lasts for more than a few minutes you should definitely seek medical help.

What are the treatment options for Angina?

The medication most commonly prescribed is Nitrates such as nitro-glycerine that dilates the walls of the blood vessels allowing more blood and therefore oxygen to reach the heart. If there are repeated angina episodes then there could be the addition of beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers.

Beta-blockers slow the heartbeat and also reduce the strength of the muscle contractions taking some of the load off the organ.

Calcium channel blockers block the entry of calcium into the cells. This dilates the coronary arteries and increases the heart’s blood flow.

Anti-platelet and anticoagulant drugs inhibit the formation of blood clots by inhibiting the platelets that normal bind together. Aspirin is often prescribed in a relatively low dose, which a patient can take daily.

There are a number of surgical options for advanced stages of atherosclerosis and therefore increased angina attacks. These include angioplasty, stenting and coronary artery bypass grafting.

Blocked artery 3 - Baloon inflatedAngioplasty is a procedure where a balloon-tipped catheter is inserted in the blocked coronary artery and inflated. The balloon compresses the plaque against the walls of the artery, which increases the blood flow. This is usually combined with the inserting of a stent via the catheter. A stent is a small mesh tube that holds the damaged artery open allowing for increased blood flow.

A coronary bypass is a far more invasive procedure, which involves the grafting of the patient’s own veins and arteries, from other parts of the body, around the damaged blood vessels thus by-passing the blockage.

What can we do to prevent Atherosclerosis and Angina?

One of the most important preventative measures that you can take is to learn about your own body and also the medical history of your immediate family. It is more likely that if your parents, grandparents suffered from heart disease or diabetes then you may also be at a higher risk of the same problems. Diabetes sufferers are more likely to suffer from heart problems and monitoring this through regular blood tests is important if there has been a family history of the disease. Having this knowledge gives you the opportunity to make lifestyle choices that reduce your risk of developing heart disease in your own lifetime.

First and foremost you must give up smoking cigarettes, as this is a major contributor to heart disease.

Cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by itself. When it acts with other factors, it greatly increases risk. Smoking increases blood pressure, inhibits oxygen uptake during exercise and increases the tendency for blood to clot. Smoking also increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery.

In the last three years I have written several blogs regarding both the unhealthy type of LDL cholesterol which has smaller platelets and when oxidised (likely with a poor diet of refined sugars and industrially produced foods) it clumps in the arteries causing blockages and narrowing the blood vessels. You can also read about elevated blood pressure as well.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/cholesterol-and-fats-the-myths-and-the-legends/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/high-blood-pressure-strategies-to-reduce-naturally/

Other common heart conditions.

Apart from Angina, there are a number of other conditions that affect the heart. The good news is that most are either preventable or can be supported with a few changes to your lifestyle.

Arrhythmia and problems with your heartbeat

  • Arrhythmia is an erratic and abnormal heart rate. This is most commonly caused by blocked coronary arteries.
  • Sinus tachycardia is a regular heartbeat but too fast, usually over 100 beats per minute. It can also be caused by over exertion or stress.
  • Atrial fibrillation is caused by abnormal electrical activity and the result is a heartbeat between 300 to 500 beats per minute.
  • Ventricular tachycardia is caused by damaged heart muscle resulting in an ineffective heartbeat of between 120–220 beats per minute without the power to push the blood through the system.

Heart murmurs

We normally cannot hear the blood actually flowing through the heart but sometimes there may be some unusual noises that are called murmurs. These indicate that the smooth flow of blood has become unstable due to structural damage inside the heart. This is commonly caused by damage to the valves between the atria and the ventricles which causes either narrowing or leaking.

Heart valve disorders

As with any part of the body, the heart valves are subject to wear and tear. Our heart function is totally dependent on the pumping action and therefore on the health of the valves. There are two types of abnormality, stenosis which is a narrowing of the valve, allowing less blood through and an incompetent valve which allows blood to leak back down into the ventricles through an improperly closed valve.

Some valves can be corrected surgically but it is quite common these days to have the valves replaced completely restoring normal heart function. The replacement valves are made from metal and plastic, which may require medication to prevent clotting, or animal or human tissue which is not as long lasting but does not cause clots.

Next time some foods to include in your diet to help maintain a healthy heart. It may also help you lose weight and if you have read yesterday’s post you will know that the heart beats over 3 billion times in a lifetime and as with any pump it wears out.

Just losing a stone in excess weight can reduce the number of times your heart has to beat every day significantly – saving a million heartbeats a year will extend the life of your heart and therefore your life.

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 1999 – 2018

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis. Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

A little bit about me nutritionally.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook from http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

And Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4: http://www.moyhill.com/html/just_food_for_health.html

Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is sally.cronin@moyhill.com. I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally

Thanks for dropping in and please feel free to share.

The Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Cranberries more than just sauce for the Turkey


Did you really think you would get away without any health posts this week….sorry!!!

Of course we are not allowed to say that any food or plant can cure anything but we can say that they may have therapeutic properties.  Since this is Christmas week it is likely that many of you will be reaching for either fresh cranberries to make a sauce to go with the turkey or will be buying a jar.  If possible do go the natural route and make your own.

cranberries_background_200742

Cranberries have a documented medicinal history and were used by the Native American Indians as a nutritious addition to their diet normally sweetened with honey as of course the berries are very tart. The Indians also used the berries in poultices for wounds as they recognised the antibacterial and antibiotic effect of the fruit even if they could not scientifically prove these properties. Colonists, who had been introduced to the berry, exported it home to England at the beginning of the 18th century.

Modern research into the therapeutic properties of the cranberry is not one sided and sometimes I think that there is a commercial element to some of the findings and disputed findings.  However, I have used cranberries for over 20 years and certainly have found that there is certainly some truth to its health properties.

Most of us, before the 80’s, restricted cranberries in our diet to Christmas and the odd time we had turkey at other times in the year. Then came the very welcome news that for those of us, who suffered from attacks of bacterial cystitis, drinking the juice of these tart little red berries could bring relief. In fact drinking cranberry (although disputed in some scientific areas) can help prevent attacks of this painful condition. Cranberries contain a unique component in which is technically termed High molecular weight non-dialysable material or NDM for short. NDM prevents bacteria from clumping and damaging soft tissue in various parts of the body including the urinary tract.  It is interesting that most over the counter cystitis treatments contain cranberry combined with alkaline elements to reduce the build-up of acid.

Emerging evidence shows that this fruit is a lot more versatile than we thought and there are now several very good reasons to include cranberries on a daily basis in your diet.
Cranberry the antioxidant

A free radical is a molecule. A normal molecule has an even number of electrons and is considered stable. Free radicals on the other hand have an uneven number of electrons and are unstable. They are desperate to be like the normal molecules so they have to steal from them to get another electron. This of course means that they have created another free radical. More and more cells become damaged and leave the body open to many diseases – from cardiovascular to cancer.

The free-radicals cause cells to oxidise and die. The major damage is done to our DNA, which results in mutations and death of the cells. Our body does produce anti-oxidants and enzymes that can repair this damage if we eat healthily. However, as we get older so do our cells and it becomes harder to repair them and they die. This is ageing! In our brains when cells are damaged beyond repair you are susceptible to loss of co-ordination and memory and in extreme cases dementia.

To prevent this we need a diet that is very high in anti-oxidants, which work through the body immobilising free radicals and preventing damage. Cranberries contain one of the highest levels of anti-oxidants of most fruit and vegetables and that is why drinking at least one glass per day can provide you with enough of these defensive players to protect your brain.

Artery health

In the same way, flavonoids in Cranberries function as very potent antioxidants and may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is when the arteries become clogged and narrowed restricting blood flow to the heart. The most common cause is a build-up of LDL (Low-Density lipoproteins or lousy cholesterol) oxidising and causing plaque to cling to the walls of the arteries narrowing and hardening them. This can lead to angina, blood clots and heart attacks.
Cranberries contain the flavonoids and also polyphenol compounds that have been shown to help prevent the LDL from oxidising and therefore forming the dangerous plaque that leads to arterial disease.

Dental health – another good reason to drink cranberry juice.

When I left secretarial college, intent on a career on the stage, I took a job as a dental receptionist, which evolved, into my training as a dental nurse.

Canned drinks were becoming all the rage in the 60’s and I saw first-hand the corrosive damage that these sugary concoctions could inflict on tooth enamel. There was not the kind of education, products or electric toothbrushes in those days, but if there had been more of one type of drink around in those days we would have seen a lot less decay.
One would think that drinking cranberry juice with its natural sugars would have a harmful effect on the teeth but in fact the reverse is true. Cranberries actually help prevent dental problems.

A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association reported that there is a unique component in cranberry juice, which is technically termed High molecular weight non-dialysable material or NDM for short. Hundreds of different types of bacteria in the mouth clump together and attach themselves to the teeth and gums and over time hardens causing cavities and gum disease. This film on the teeth becomes resistant to saliva, which would normally remove bacteria from the mouth and also our normal oral hygiene routines such as brushing. One of the most resistant bacteria in the mouth is Streptococcus and in tests indications showed that Cranberry mouthwash reduced the presence of this in the mouth significantly.

NDM in cranberries has the power to prevent this bacteria build-up in the first place having a long-term effect on your dental health.

Other fruits were tested including Blueberries which are part of the same family as cranberries but the NDM was in much weaker concentrations in these and all other fruits tested.

My advice however is to steer clear of commercially produced juices which are low on cranberries and high on sugars.. I actually use concentrated cranberry which is quite expensive but I only use a teaspoon in a glass of water – it does not taste great but you soon get used to the taste.

Cranberry juice and peptic ulcers

Helicobacter Pylori (H.Pylori) bacteria can have a painful and devastating impact on the health of your stomach and also its ability to process the food that you eat.

A peptic ulcer is a sore on the lining of the stomach or duodenum, which is the beginning of the small intestine. They are quite common and one of the main causes is bacterial infection and the chief culprit is H.Pylori. It is not certain how people contract H.Pylori but it is believed that 20% of people under 40 and half of the population over 60 are infected with it.

H.Pylori weakens the protective mucous coating of the stomach and duodenum, which allows acid to get through to the sensitive lining beneath. Both the acid and the bacteria irritate the lining causing a sore or ulcer. H.Pylori is able to survive in stomach acid because it secretes enzymes that neutralise the acid. Once in the safety of the mucous lining the bacteria’s spiral shape allows it to burrow into the lining.

H.Pylori has also been associated with stomach cancer, acid reflux and gastritis. Finding a natural way to prevent H.Pylori from completing its mission is therefore a very prime research topic.

As in dental health and in the urinary tract, the NDM prevents the H.Pylori from attaching itself to the lining of the stomach therefore preventing an ulcer developing.

Other benefits of cranberries

Emerging research is indicating that the benefits of cranberries are even more far reaching with research into its anti-viral properties in the treatment of infections such as herpes and the prevention of kidney infections and kidney stones. What is extremely interesting is the cranberries ability to inhibit the growth of common food related pathogens including Listeria and E.Coli 0157:H7. This antibiotic effect of cranberries was recognised centuries ago by the American Indians and it is a pity that we are only just catching up with these enlightened people.

How to eat cranberries
By far the best way to get your daily fix of cranberries is fresh, made into a salsa or mixed with other fruit and juiced.

The recommended ration of cranberry unsweetened juice is two 10 oz. glasses per day. One in the morning and one in the evening it takes two hours for the antibacterial properties to be effective and they then last approximately twelve hours.  You can make your own from unsweetened concentrate and 8 oz of water or per the instructions.

Here is a recipe for homemade cranberry sauce to make your turkey zing..

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/13459/cranberry-sauce-i/

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 2007

Image Cranberries – all-free-download.com

Thanks for dropping by.. Sally