Heart attacks and strokes cannot be cured! How well one lives after them depends on quick action, modern medicine and luck.
Heart Attacks and Strokes are not a disease. They are actually the end result of Cardiovascular and Coronary Artery disease (CAD).
Most people have an inkling, or believe, that CAD is caused by fats and cholesterol clogging up our arteries, this is simply untrue, false, kaput, and BS.
I have read literally hundreds of research articles published by the Australian Heart Foundation, The American Heart Association, and research articles referenced in the Cochrane Database, and the USA’s National Institutes of health which indexes research articles from all over the world. I know what a lipoprotein is, and an apolipoprotein, and a ligand, and so on and so on.
I can read and understand the research. But to be honest, even though an enormous amount of knowledge has been accumulated the intricacies of how and why CAD starts and develops to the point where it is responsible for a heart attack or stroke is not completely understood. It is actually a very complex process, and it is also very individual.
One important issue is that the methods usually applied to determine an individual's risk of having a heart attack are based on population wide statistics, and these are used to provide individual medical and lifestyle advice which can and does fail many individuals.
The purpose of this series is to help all Boomers understand and reduce their risk of having a heart attack or stroke resulting from CAD and what to do about it.
THE PROGRESS OF CAD - From Birth to Heart Attack
CAD is first observed in children as young as five with the observation of initial “fatty streaks” appearing on the inner artery surface. This occurrence could almost be called natural as even though it may not be universal it is common to most. These streaks are not dangerous.
Over the next roughly four decades or so the disease progresses, the artery wall is invaded by fats and cholesterol forming small pools between the muscle cells making up the wall, and eventually the cells of the wall.
The wall gets thicker and more complex. This is still not dangerous. As more time progresses immune cells become involved to clean up the mess. This mess is called plaque.
Finally, a self propagating inflammatory process is initiated destabilising the artery wall including the inner lining. Eventually this may rupture and needs to be repaired. In the process part of the fix, a “scab like” fragment may break free and travel to a smaller section of the artery system blocking it and stopping blood flow to heart muscle or brain tissue, causing the heart attack or stroke.
This is a gross over simplification of the process, but it is a process that takes time. Medical advice and treatment goals are aimed at slowing or halting this process in order to avoid life threatening heart attacks and strokes.
THE REAL PROBLEM
Our blood is a water based system that carries oxygen, water and nutrients to our cells to sustain life. Cholesterol and fats are necessary for life, nearly every human cell needs cholesterol. Here’s the catch, both cholesterol and fats are insoluble in water, they don’t mix. Our bodies fix this by wrapping up the fats and cholesterol in particles that are water soluble on the outside and fat friendly on the inside, allowing them to
successfully be carried by our blood to deliver their contents to the cells that need them. These particles are called Lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are not supposed to dump their contents or invade the walls of our arteries, why and how this happens is the real issue, because if it didn’t heart attacks and (non hemorrhagic) strokes should not occur!
THE MAGIC PILL
One of the biggest issues facing modern medicine is that an image has been created and the public expects that it can fix everything with surgery and medicines. When one considers the surgical techniques and drugs that are available today and compare them to those available 100 years ago the advances have been truly amazing and incredible. Advances in medical science and knowledge are being made every day and we can expect the future to provide even better outcomes than those available today.
Having said this, the most effective medicines to control the progression of CAD today are known as Statins. They are a very successful drug and have saved innumerable lives; they reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by about 30% (depending on which research one reads). This actually means about 1 in 3 heart attacks are prevented by them. Or put another way 2 in 3 won’t be prevented by Statin treatment. Our most effective drug for the prevention of heart attacks fails most of the time.
TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR OWN RISK AND GOOD HEALTH
The rest of this series will provide you with information as to the how and why CAD develops and what you can do to halt or slow the process. At Boomers Health we believe that if one understands the issue it becomes easier to carry out the actions that can help overcome it.
Next in the series is Lipoproteins, why and how they are “supposed” to work and why cholesterol doesn’t really matter. If you want to stop learning and just want to know how to reduce your personal heart attack and stroke risk, just go to the last article in this series.
Next : Part II - Lipoproteins and Cholesterol Testing