Heart Disease and Obesity [video]

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Video Transcript
Toxic Waist: Heart disease and obesity

Dr Derrick Cutting, General Practitioner: 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 the most amazing muscle. It keeps blood pumping around your body day and night, and to do this it needs a constant supply of blood. Blood is delivered to the heart by the coronary arteries. A little like the pipes that deliver water to the appliances in your house.

When you're young these arteries are completely clear, and the blood can flow freely to the heart. But after years of an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle, our arteries get clogged up with fatty cholesterol deposits called atheroma or plaques. Gradually, over time, the soft atheroma hardens and constricts the blood flow. 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 your vital organs. And if the coronary arteries get too narrow, the flow of blood to the hard-working heart muscle itself is restricted.

When the heart goes short of oxygen, it causes chest pain called angina. Now 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. And this clot travels up the artery until it hits a narrow point where it gets stuck, blocking all the 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 we call the heart muscle the myocardium, and we call death of a tissue due to blood deprivation infarction. So when part of the heart muscle dies, we call it myocardial infarction, and that's a heart attack. The amazing thing is that so much heart disease is actually preventable. Millions of people die each year from coronary heart disease, but if they changed their lifestyle they could drastically lower the risk of dying. The buildup of fatty cholesterol atheroma is due to what we eat. In some countries the incidence of coronary heart disease is almost zero. Why is this? It's because they have a diet and lifestyle that keeps their arteries clear, and there's no reason why we can't do the same.

We just need to take enough exercise and eat the right diet.

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