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Teaching Nutrition: Background information about nutrition, the nutrients, and healthy eating habits
Coronary Heart Disease

Stylized image of a heart.

Heart disease is the #1 killer of people in America. Coronary heart disease is caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels leading to the heart, which restricts the amount of oxygen- and nutrient-carrying blood that can reach the heart muscle fibers. When the blood vessels become so narrow that critically insufficient supplies can reach the heart, a person may experience angina (chest pain), arrhythmia (changes in heart beat rhythm), heart failure (the heart continues to beat, but does so inefficiently), or heart attack (death of some or all of the heart).

Arterial narrowing is called atherosclerosis, and it occurs when cholesterol and fat in the blood builds up on the walls of the blood vessels (arteries). Just like mineral deposits in a water pipe, the soft fats and waxy cholesterol slowly build up layers over time. This narrows the internal diameter of the vessel, and can increase the pressure of the blood traveling through. Imagine putting your thumb over part of the end of a garden hose, the narrowing of the diameter increases the pressure of the water exiting the hose and causes it to jet out forcefully.

Although some factors, like heredity, gender, and increasing age, will have an impact you cannot control, there are many ways that individuals can keep themselves healthy.

Lifestyle Factors Contributing to Heart Disease
Risk Factor
Healthy Living Tip
High body weight   Be sure to keep your body weight at a normal level.
High fat diet   Choose low-fat foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. When you select dairy and meat products, try to choose the leanest products. Avoid high-fat foods such as butter, desserts such as cheesecake, chocolate, and cake, and deep-fried foods like potato chips, fried chicken, French fries, and doughnuts.
High cholesterol diet   Cholesterol is a special type of fat, often found in liver, egg yolks, butter, ice-cream, and high-fat cuts of meat. It can clog in your arteries and cause many problems.
Limited physical activity or exercise   You should get 30-60 minutes of physical activity every day. Vigorous exercises, the types of activities that make your heart beat faster, your lungs breathe deeper, and your skin sweat, are really healthy.
Smoking   Heart disease is one of many reasons you should not smoke.

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