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Heart Disease And Obesity Prevention

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The Heart

Everybody knows that being overweight increases your chance of a heart attack, but not many people understand why, or what a heart attack really is.

The heart is an incredible muscle. It keeps blood pumping around your body day and night. To do this it needs a constant supply of blood, which is delivered to the heart by the coronary arteries.

Arteries and cholesterol

When you’re young, these arteries are completely clear and the blood can flow healthily into the heart. But, after years of an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle our arteries get clogged up with fatty, cholesterol deposits. If your body produces too much of what’s called low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, as the fatty molecules circulate through your body they can stick together and begin to build up on arterial walls. This is called atheroma.

Gradually over time, the soft atheroma hardens and constricts the blood flow to the heart. We call this hardening process “atherosclerosis”.


As your arteries get more clogged up and narrower, your heart has to work harder to get enough blood pumped through to supply your body. If your arteries restrict the blood flow, sometimes your heart doesn’t get enough of the oxygenated blood that acts as its fuel. When this happens, the heart experiences pain – this is called angina.

Heart Attack

A heart attack is a far more serious affair. What can happen is that part of the hard atherosclerotic plaque that’s built up inside your arteries can break off and this can form a clot.

This clot travels up the artery until it hits a narrow point where it gets stuck, blocking all blood flow. This sudden blockage stops all blood and oxygen from reaching part of the heart muscle. And this part of the heart muscle actually dies.

In medical parlance the heart muscle is called the “myocardium” and death of muscle tissue due to blood deprivation known as “infarction”. When part of the heart muscle dies it’s called a “myocardial infarction”. And that’s a heart attack.


The build up of fatty, cholesterol atheroma is due to what we eat. In some countries the incidence of coronary heart disease is almost zero. Why? Because their diets and lifestyle mean their arteries are kept clear. And there’s no reason that we can’t do the same. We just need to ensure that we eat the right diet and get the exercise that we need.

10712 Revised November 2012

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