What Causes Heart Disease?

It's very important to understand what causes heart disease and how it develops in order to prevent the problem from developing or try to treat it if we already suffer from it.

If you prefer to go straight to the foods that can help prevent and treat it, then go to Healing Foods for Heart Disease.

I'm sure you're aware that cardiovascular disease, or just known as heart disease, is the most common cause of death in the UK, USA and most of the industrialized countries.

For example, in the UK 21% of all people die from some form of heart disease and its complications.

In fact, I'm sure that most of us know someone who's had a heart attack or, worse, has died from it.

But what causes heart disease and, above all, what can we do to prevent it or even reverse it?

Does what we eat affect the health of our heart?

What Causes Heart Disease

diagram of the heart

When you are born, your arteries are clean, open and elastic.

Then something happens that causes damage to your blood vessel walls, which exposes the underlying connective tissue and the collagen.

That damage could be caused by many factors, such as the wrong type of diet, high blood pressure, smoking and lack of antioxidants.

When the platelets in the blood come into contact with the collagen, they trigger a natural repair mechanism that starts to form clots.

The immune cells that rush in to repair the damage do so as part of an inflammatory process that actually damages blood vessels further, thickens the blood and contributes to the formation of blood clots.

This process causes a proliferation of endothelial cells lining the arteries, and fatty streaks appear.

These are formed by oxidized cholesterol, immune cell debris and calcium salts.

blocked artery

Gradually these streaks are transformed into plaque, or atheroma - fatty scar tissue, which narrows the artery and reduces elasticity, eventually reducing blood flow through the vessel.

This process is known as atherosclerosis and is what causes heart disease to develop.

If the clot, or thrombus, becomes large enough, it can block off blood flow, suffocating large patches of cardiac muscle, causing what we know as heart attack, or myocardial infarction.

The severity of the heart attack depends on how reduced the blood flow is.

In acute myocardial infarction, the supply of oxygen is so severely reduced that the region of the heart muscle may die (necrosis) within an hour or so and, as a result, the activity of the whole heart may be severely threatened.

Pains in the chest that come on during exercise, over-eating and stress are early warning signs that the blood supply to the arteries of the heart is restricted, and are known as angina pectoris.

The clot or thrombus may also sometimes break away from its anchor point and form a mobile embolus (thromboembolism).

A freely moving embolus may partially or completely plug a smaller vessel as it flows downstream and can result in a gradual or sudden blockage of any blood vessel: if it's in the heart, it's called heart attack, if it's in the lungs it's called pulmonary embolism and if it's in the brain it's called a stroke - all potentially life-threatening events.

So what causes heart disease is also the cause of other serious cardiovascular problems.

Symptoms of Heart Attack

  • An uncomfortable feeling of pressure, squeezing, or pain in the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. Could be mistaken for severe heartburn.
  • Pain that may spread to - or be present in only - the jaw, the neck, the shoulders, the arms, the elbows, or the left hand.
  • Prolonged pain in the upper abdomen.
  • Shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, sweating, or feeling clammy to the touch.
  • Exhaustion - may be experienced weeks before the attack.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Frequent angina attacks not caused by exertion.

Symptoms may vary from mild to strong and do not all occur in every heart attack. But if any combination of these takes place, get help fast!

However, in some cases there are no symptoms; these are referred to as silent heart attacks.

Now that you understand what causes heart disease have a look at what part food plays in it by looking at the page Reverse Heart Disease with Healing Foods.



Healing Foods for Heart Disease

Fish Oil and Heart Disease

Beans and Heart Disease

Onions for Your Heart

Garlic and Heart Disease

Heart Healthy Nuts

Olive Oil and Heart Disease

Treat Heart Disease with Fruits and Vegetables

Wine for Heart Disease

Green Tea for Heart Disease


1) Black's Medical Dictionary, (2009) 42nd Edition, London: Black Publishers Limited

2) Carper, J., (1993) Food Your Miracle Medicine: How Food Can Prevent and Treat Over 100 Symptoms and Problems, New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

3) Duke, J.A., Ph.D.,(2008) The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods: Proven Natural Remedies to Treat and Prevent More Than 80 Common Health Concerns, New York; Rodale.

4) McLannahan, H., (2004) Body Systems, Milton Keynes: The Open University

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Healing Foods for Heart Disease Pages:

Reverse Heart Disease With Healing Foods

Healing Foods for Heart Disease

Fish Oil





Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Fruits and Vegetables

Red Wine

Green Tea

Further Reading on Healing Foods for Heart Disease: