What Causes Heart Disease?

It's very important to understand what causes heart disease because that's the only way to prevent the problem from developing or, if we already suffer from it, to treat it.

To go straight to the foods that can help prevent and treat it, then go to Healing Foods for Heart Disease, otherwise, read on to expand your knowledge of this condition.

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.

Did you Know...

...that 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:

When the platelets in the blood come into contact with the collagen that has been exposed, 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 and this deposit gradually thickens the walls of the arteries.

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 (MI).

Did you know?

  • If the clot is in the heart, it's called heart attack
  • If it's in the lungs it's called pulmonary embolism
  • If it's in the brain it's called a stroke

These are all potentially life-threatening events.

  • 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.

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.

So far we've talked about the mechanics of heart disease but we haven't mentioned what the risk factors are or what part food plays in it. Please look at Part 2 of this series: Reverse Heart Disease with Healing Foods

Articles in the Heart Disease Series:

Supplements That Might Help You Fight Heart Disease

Antarctic Krill Oil

Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements


Homocysteine Support

Magnesium Citrizorb Capsules

Superlec Plus

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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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Supplements to Help You Fight Heart Disease

Antarctic Krill Oil

Even more effective than fish oil in preventing Heart Disease!

EPA Marine Fish Oil

Nutrigold EPA Marine Fish Oil are sourced from ecologically clean seas and undergo selective absorption of pollutants like heavy metals, dioxides and PCBs to ensure purity.

Magnesium Citrizorb

Nutrigold Magnesium Citrizorb® provides 100mg elemental magnesium per capsule in a highly bioavailable and bioactive organic citrate form.


Blend of natural botanicals including psyllium husk, fennel, garlic, inulin, peppermint and papaya, L-Glutamine and Bifidobacteria

Homocysteine Support

Homocysteine is a common amino acid in your blood. You get it mostly from eating meat. High levels of it are linked to early development of heart disease.

Superlec Plus

Nutrigold Superlec Plus is a natural lecithin powder, delivering high potency phosphatidyl choline (32%) and plant sterols including beta-sitosterol.