It is estimated that over 73,000 people die from preventable Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) each year. Although, it is a disease more common in males (16% of deaths), it does account for over 10% of female deaths too .
What is Coronary Heart Disease?
Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term which includes Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), which is sometimes referred to as ischaemic heart disease. CHD is clinically recognised by ‘occlusiom’ or blockage of the coronary arteries. This blockage is typically made from fatty plaque deposits in the lining of the vessel, known as an atheroma. This marks the onset of the development of the disease Atherosclerosis. This can occur due to a number of factors including, high fat diet, high blood pressure and smoking. As time goes on the atheroma grows into the centre of the lumen narrowing its width and disrupting flow. This causes disruption to flow and prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching the myocardial tissue (heart tissue). Even partial disruption of flow can be hugely damaging or cause angina. However, total disruption of flow can lead to a myocardial infarction, otherwise known as a ‘heart attack’.
As a result of occluded blood flow, Thrombosis may occur, this is when blood platelets stick together creating a thrombus. When this develops in narrow arteries it can again create a blockage which prevents the blood flow to the cardiac muscle.
What is the Cause and Risk Factors of CHD?
There are a number of causes as this disease is known as a ’multifactoral’ disease. This means that any one, or number of factors may lead to CHD. Having one of the following will increase your risk of developing coronary heart disease:
- Being Male
- High levels of the amino aid homocysteine
- Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
- Smoking Cigarettes
- Increased age
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Pre-diabetes or Diabetes
- Hyperlipidemia (High levels of triglycerides or cholesterol in the blood)
- High Levels of Stress
- Poor Diet 
Is diet the answer?
To tackle Hypertension as a risk factor you are advised to reduce salt (sodium) in your diet, found in foods such as processed meats, pies and snacks. There is a well-established link between high salt intakes and high blood pressure. In addition to reducing sodium salts, you are advised to increase potassium intakes. You can do so by increasing fruit and vegetable intakes to over 5-a-day.
To tackle the onset of atherosclerosis and hyperlipidemia as a risk factor, you are advised to be cautious of your saturated and trans fat intakes. Instead, the focus shifts to Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and Polysaturated fats (PUFAs). These are found in fish, avocados, nuts and plant oils. Additionally, for someone concerned about heart disease, Fish is one of the most valuable commodities. Not only is fish rich in MUFAs and PUFAs, but anti-inflammatory Omega-3 oils, Eicosapentaenoic acid, which is evidently known as an anti-thrombotic, anti-inflammatory and anti-hypertensive. In numerous clinical trials, EPA has been shown to thin the blood and lower blood pressure. Furthermore, you are advised to drastically increase your dietary fibre as this causes a slow absorption of fat from the digestive system so that blood lipids do not rapidly rise .
To tackle homocysteine as a risk factor for Coronary Heart Disease you should consider increasing your intakes of Choline, Folate, Vitamin B6 and B12. Firstly, what is homocysteine? Homocysteine is an amino acid that can elevate in the blood, this condition is conducive to atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and even myocardial infarctions. According to the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) Zinc, Choline, Vitamin B6 and B12 help to metabolise homocysteine back to cysteine and regulate its volumes in the blood.
Finally, Drink Green Tea…
Green Tea is a common health beverage that promotes helping anything from weight loss to Osteoporosis and Inflammation. Green tea is extracted from the Camellia Sinensis plant and has recently been shown to reduce the risk of developing Coronary Heart Disease. Green Tea is full of antioxidants and polyphenols that have been scientifically proven to be beneficial to health. Particularly Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG).
According to a report by Harvard Health, those people that drank more than 5 cups of Green Tea a day had a 26% lower risk of death by heart attack than those that did not . This was mirrored by a retrospective study that compared the Green Tea intakes of people with CHD or Atherosclerosis, and those without. The study found that those people with the disease drank little to no Green Tea, and those that didn’t have the disease were regular drinkers of Green Tea . A 2008 study showed its potent effect on the development of Atherosclerosis. This study found that people who drank Green Tea had better vessel function. What this means is that it has higher reactivity to change. The study was conducted on people around the age of 30. As a method of measurement, flow-mediated dilation was recorded. This simply measures the flow of blood in a specific artery. It was found that there was a significant change in dilation of the artery, 30 minutes after Green Tea consumption. Following that, this was also shown at 90 and 120-minute intervals . This shows that not only is Green Tea incredibly effective at preventing Coronary Heart Disease, but it also eased symptoms of established Coronary Heart Disease.
Other ways to reduce your risk of CHD…
- Control your weight, maintain a healthy BMI
- Stop Smoking
- Control your diet, maintaining a balanced and healthy diet
- Get moving, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to the onset of many diseases.
- Be aware of your families medical history. If your family has a history of the disease be mindful of your health.
- Heart UK. (2016). Key Facts and Figures . Available: https://heartuk.org.uk/press/press-kit/key-facts-figures.
- Mann.J, Chisholm.A. (2012). Cardiovascular Disease. In: Mann,J. Truswell,S. Essentials of Human Nutrition. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pg. 326-358.
- Brewer, S.. (2002). Angina. In: Grapevine Publishing Services The Daily Telegraph Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals and Herbal Supplements. 10th ed. London: Walters-Kluwer. Pg. 338-342.
- Harvard Health. (2012). Green tea may lower heart disease risk.Available: http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/green-tea-may-lower-heart-disease-risk.
- Sano.J, et-al. (2004). Effects of green tea intake on the development of coronary artery disease.. Circulation Journal. 68 (7), Pg. 665-670
- Alexopoulos, N. European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, June 2008: vol 15: pp 300-305.