What is CHD?
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is an important consideration for everyone, as it is the leading single cause of death for both men and women. There are a number of risk factors, but the risk increases for women over the age of 50, so at Hormone Health, we are particularly interested in the impact of CHD on our patients.
CHD is the blocking up of the coronary arteries, i.e. the blood vessels that supply the heart itself with blood. The heart needs its own supply of blood to function properly, so any changes in the flow of blood to the muscles of the heart can have significant health consequences.
What causes CHD?
As with the other blood vessels in the body, it is usually caused by atherosclerosis. This is the process whereby fatty material deposits itself on the walls of the blood vessels and slowly builds up to create a narrowing of the vessel. This narrowing then causes a reduction of blood flow to the heart and potentially some of the symptoms associated with CHD.
What are the risk factors?
Unfortunately, nothing can be done about this specifically, so as you get older it can be helpful to ensure that you are aware of the other risk factors and that you do what you can to reduce them.
There are two main types of cholesterol – Low Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (LDL-C) and High Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL-C).
LDL-C is known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol and is most commonly found in animal fats. HDL-C is known as the ‘good’ cholesterol, as it is thought that it carries fat away from the arteries to be broken down and excreted.
The higher proportion of HDL-C the better, so where possible try to choose foods that are higher in HDL than LDL-C. These foods include olive oil, fatty fish, nuts.
A high level of 3rd type of fat, triglycerides, is also associated with an increased risk of CHD. Triglycerides are produced from starchy foods, so reducing the intake of ‘sugar’ based foods and drinks will help reduce this particular risk.
Obesity increases both types of cholesterol and triglycerides, so weight control is a fundamental way to reduce the risk of CHD.
Obesity also puts an extra strain on the heart itself, as it increases the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) and affects blood sugar control.
Smoking and alcohol
Smoking reduces beneficial HDL cholesterol. It can also damage the blood vessel walls, making it easier for the cholesterol to ‘stick’ to them.
Alcohol in moderation, particularly in red wine with high resveratrol content e.g. Madiran may increase the beneficial HDL-C.
Diabetes is a condition where the body is unable to manage sugar levels in the body effectively. It may be due to poor insulin production by the pancreas (type 1 diabetes) or body tissues failing to respond to insulin action (type 2).
High sugar levels and high insulin levels both aid the development of fatty deposits in the arteries.
Estrogen has a protective effect on the arteries during a women’s reproductive years.
However, estrogen levels drop when the menopause occurs, meaning that this protection is lost and the risk of CHD increases.