How heavy or thin we are should not be used as the sole indication of our risk of heart diseases. We may have a thin and lean body structure and still be a victim of one or more of the many cardiovascular diseases that plague mankind today, to the extent that there could even be a cardiac arrest waiting to surface. On the other hand, we could be overweight and still be unaffected by any of the cardiac complications.
What causes cardiac diseases?
There are several ways of determining whether one is in the right weight or frame range like calculation of body mass index, weight to height ratio, waist to hip ratio, and many more in the making. We all at one point or another have used one or more of these assessment tools to check ourselves. In spite of all this, we find that the risk of cardiac diseases remains with every body size, age, gender and ethnicity. So, what exactly is the underlying reason for cardiac diseases?
Atherosclerosis: A widely researched and talked about subject, atherosclerosis is said to occur either due to excessive unmetabolized fat, or due to growth and development of plaque in the interior walls of the artery, or a clot in the artery thus reducing its diameter and thereby depriving the heart and brain of an adequate supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients.
Lipids: How often do we take the readings of our lipoproteins seriously? Lipoproteins, a total of five, serve the function of transporting fat throughout our body. The most common and dangerous among them, the low density lipoprotein (LDL), is known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol as it causes plaque to form on arterial walls. Overtime, these plaque clog the arteries disrupting the blood flow (atherosclerosis).
Insulin Resistance: Insulin, the hormone that is released by our pancreas, is responsible for the transport of glucose from the blood into other body cells, where it is used as a source of fuel or energy. In certain cases, individuals develop insulin resistance, and their body cells become unresponsive to insulin. This could be a hidden factor and over a period of time can lead to diabetic and related cardiac complications.
Smoking: The array of chemicals consumed due to smoking of any kind, whether active or passive, is hugely responsible for severe cardiac complications like Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), to highlight a few.
Vitamin D deficiency: We all know Vitamin D as the vitamin for healthy bones. It helps to regulate blood pressure in the kidneys and also plays a vital role in regulating the blood sugar levels in the pancreas. Thus, it can serve to control diabetic and related cardiac complications. If we are vitamin D deficient, therefore, our risk can increase.
High Homocysteine Levels: Homocysteine, an amino acid that is produced by the breakdown of dietary protein in our body, is metabolized by folic acid and vitamin B6. Inadequate levels of either of these vitamins can lead to elevated homocysteine levels. Homocysteine can not only contribute to arterial plaque formation by damaging the arterial walls, but also act on platelets increasing the risk of clot formation.
Drastic Weight Loss: Drastic weight loss or body diameter reduction, either by medications or surgical interventions is another cause of heart disease. Medical or surgical intervention can help to remove the surface fat, thus making one appear thin, but does not remove the underlying fat attached to organs and circulatory system.
Angina Pectoris: Commonly known as AP, it is a condition that is caused by reduced blood supply to the heart, thus reducing both blood and oxygen supply to the heart. In addition to diet and lifestyle factors, this condition can also be caused by physical and mental stress. Stress levels will increase the oxygen demand of the heart, which would be below the supply levels.
Genotopic Variants: There is a class of individuals who show high levels of angitensin converting enzyme levels, who may sometimes show some signs of enlarged thoracic aorta. This small group is at risk due to their genetic make-up and control of hypertension is the best intervention measure.
As we can see, cardiovascular complications are not solely caused by weight or body size alone. Yes, it is good not to be both underweight and overweight, but a healthy weight does not confer any immunity to cardiac diseases.
Some other measures that we can take to stay away from cardiovascular complications are:
1) Exercise regularly
2) Consume a low-glycemic diet
3) Avoid smoking
4) Consume more greens and fresh food.
5) Eat small, but more frequent portions.
6) Focus on consumption of healthy fats (eg, oily fish, legumes, nuts etc).
7) Manage stress.
8) Control blood pressure.
1. Dr Weil. Available at www.drweil.com
2. WebMD. Available at www.webmd.com;
3. MedicineNet. Available at www.medicinenet.com
4. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Available at www.nhlbi.nih.gov
5. John Hopkins Medicine. Available at www.hopkinsmedicine.org