Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
Photograph National Park Service
An Ounce of Prevention….
The journey to Erwina on foot proved to be longer than anticipated. The old woman was moving more slowly – especially, when walking up a steep incline or over rough terrain. She needed to stop more frequently to rest and catch her breath. The child assumed more and more of the tasks that must be done to sustain their trip. She prepared potions from plants she found in the area to help ease her mistress’s distress when she could no longer walk or catch her breath. One of these was a weak tea made from leaves of the foxglove and dandelion plants. This would strengthen her heart beat and ease her labored breathing. (Excerpt from Homo transformans: The Origin and Nature of the Species.)
The story does not reveal the cause of H’Ilgraith’s death. Given the H’Alethean’s life style, it is unlikely that it was due to cardiovascular disease. Of necessity, they led an active lifestyle and ate the fruits and vegetables they could grow, tree nuts where available, and milk and eggs. On rare occasions, they would supplement their diet with fresh fish.
The Burden of Cardiovascular Disease
The cardiovascular system distributes blood through arteries to carry oxygen and nutrients to all tissues. The deposition of fats (lipids) within arterial blood vessels narrows their lumen (atherosclerosis). The heart is obliged to pump harder to push blood through narrowed arteries. This contributes to the development of high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart failure (Saliba & Maffett, 2019).
Progressive narrowing of arteries continues to reduce the available blood flow, which restricts the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues affected. When arteries that supply the heart (coronary arteries) are affected, then an individual is at risk for a heart attack (myocardial infarction, MI) and heart failure. When arteries to the brain are affected (cerebral arteries), then there is an increased risk of stroke (cerebrovascular accident, CVA). If present, dementia will worsen (Wanleenuwat, et al., 2019). When major blood vessels supplying the lower extremities are affected (peripheral artery disease, PAD), obstruction of blood flow (acute limb ischemia) can lead to amputation (Chioncel, et al. 2019).
Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease
Diabetes, obesity (metabolic syndrome), smoking, hypertension, and chronically elevated lipid levels (hyperlipidemia) are major risk factors for the development of cardiovascular disease (Chioncel, et al., 2019; Csige, et al., 2018; Gupta & Wood, 2019; Saliba & Maffett, 2019; Stewart, et al., 2017). Additional risk factors include excess consumption of alcohol, salt, highly refined carbohydrates, and high fat foods. A family history of cardiovascular disease increases risk, as well. Regular exercise, a healthy diet of fruits vegetables, legumes, and tree nuts, and weight control reduce these risks (Gupta & Wood, 2019).
February is American Heart Month. Take a moment to assess your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” (Benjamin Franklin). The Mayo Clinic Heart Disease risk calculator is a tool for estimating the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It screens for both risk factors and risk reduction strategies. The internet link to the survey is provided below for your consideration.
Chioncel, V., Brezeanu, R., Sinescu, C. (2019.) New Directions in the Management of Peripheral Artery Disease. Am J Ther, 26(2), e284-e293. doi: 10.1097/MJT.0000000000000916.
Csige, I., Ujvarosy, D., Szabo, Z., et al., (2018.) The impact of obesity on the cardiovascular system. J. Diabetes Res, 2018:3407306. doi: 10.1155/2018/3407306.
Gupta R, Wood DA. (2019.) Primary prevention of ischaemic heart disease: populations, individuals, and health professionals. Lancet, 394(10199), 685-696. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(19)31893-8.
Saliba, L. J., Maffett, S. (2019.) Hypertensive Heart Disease and Obesity: A Review. Heart Fail Clin, 15(4), 509-517. doi: 10.1016/j.hfc.2019.06.003.
Stewart, J., Manmathan, G., & Wilkinson, P. (2017). Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease: A review of contemporary guidance and literature. JRSM cardiovascular disease, 6, 2048004016687211. doi:10.1177/2048004016687211.
Wanleenuwat, P., Iwanowski, P., Kozubski, W. (2019.) Alzheimer’s dementia: pathogenesis and impact of cardiovascular risk factors on cognitive decline. Postgrad Med,131(7), 415-422. doi: 10.1080/00325481.2019.1657776.