Fatty substances and heart diseases
Fats are known to be very important in the body; they serve very important roles in insulation and in the production of other substances necessary for body growth and development.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance used by the body to make hormones like progesterone – the pregnancy hormone, oestrogen, cortisol – the stress hormone, etc.
It is also important in maintaining the fluid nature of cells; the cell membranes surrounding the cytoplasm of cells is made up of a phospholipid bi-layer which permits the entrance of some substances into the cell and inhibits some from coming in.
Additionally, the myelin sheath of nerves is made of cholesterol. This sheath serves as insulation for the nerve cells enabling rapid transmission of nerve impulses.
Under normal circumstances, the body makes all the cholesterol and triglycerides required by the body in the liver. Therefore, excessive intake of cholesterol and triglycerides result in accumulation in the body which may lead to further health complications.
The word cardio is used to refer to anything concerning or relating to the heart, while vascular refers to blood vessels (arteries and veins) in the body.
Therefore, cardiovascular diseases are those diseases and ailments that can affect the heart and blood vessels and most likely impair the function of these parts in circulation.
Cholesterol and heart diseases
The effect of cholesterol on heart diseases is both surprising and interesting. Surprising because most people do not expect that excess intake of certain types of fat have such abilities; and interesting because it is quite easy to learn and understand the cause and effects of heart diseases as relates to cholesterol.
Imagine a pipe used to connect being blocked by one thing or the other, the implication is that the water will not be able to get to its destination.
As simple as this looks in the pipe illustration, it means a lot when blood vessels in the body are involved.
Fat is a condensed form of oil, while blood is made up mostly of water; and blood and oil are two immiscible substances that cannot combine to give one particular product.
This implies that when there is excess fat in the form of cholesterol, just like that refuse in the water pipe, it accumulates in the blood vessels causing the walls of arteries to become narrow, hence blood flow to the heart is rapidly reduced or even stopped. This process is called atherosclerosis, and it is a form of cardiovascular disease.
Effects of Atherosclerosis
- Chest pain
Due to the process that forms in the walls of arteries, transportation of oxygen to the heart are hindered which may lead to chest pain.
- Heart attack
With the clogging of blood vessels, blood flow to the heart is hindered and this may cause a heart attack.
If the disease progresses without rapid intervention, death may ensue in the process.
What could affect cholesterol levels?
People who are overweight have higher chances of developing heart disease as compared to those who are of normal weight or even underweight.
Saturated fats and sugars when excess in the diet can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, thereby increasing one’s chances of developing heart disease.
As one becomes older, cholesterol levels naturally begin to increase.
The level of cholesterol in women before they attain menopause is lower than that of males. Once a woman attains menopause, her cholesterol level begins to rise.
The amount of cholesterol made by the body is largely determined by genetic factors.
Frequent exercises will cause low-density lipoproteins to become lower, and increases the amount of high-density lipoprotein.
What are the risk factors for heart diseases?
- Family history of heart disease
There is a higher chance of getting heart disease if someone else in your family has had such before.
- High blood pressure
People who have heart diseases like high blood pressure are more prone to other heart diseases.
- Physical inactivity
Physical inactivity may lead to one being obese, causing accumulation of fats. Carrying out activities makes it possible for the fats in our bodies to be broken down, preventing accumulation.
Smoking affects the heart as well as exposes smokers to other heart diseases.
- Unhealthy diets
If we eat more unhealthy foods like foods that have been processed instead of properly cooked meals, it may increase our chances of getting heart disease.