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Image by Debby Hudson

Heart Disease


The Health Index

Heart disease is a term used to describe a range of conditions that affect the heart, such as coronary artery disease, heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias), and heart defects that may be congenital. In many developed countries – including the US, the UK, Japan, Sweden and Germany - heart disease is the leading cause of death.

Image by Christopher Beloch

For the last 50 years, the medical establishment has promoted the notion that high cholesterol is a primary risk factor for coronary heart disease, and that a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol causes heart disease. These hypotheses are widely accepted as fact by many doctors and the general public alike, despite the overwhelming body of evidence that suggests otherwise.

What are the causes?

Cardiovascular disease is complex and cannot be reduced to one simple cause (such as high cholesterol). In many cases, it is considered lifestyle-related and avoidable. At the root of it lies long-term, low-grade systemic inflammation that damages the arterial walls. Plaques are formed to repair the damage, but over time the arteries become stiffer. A high blood pressure puts further strain on the blood vessels.

The risk of heart disease increases around the age of 55 in women and 45 in men. Your risk may be greater if you have close family members who have a history of heart disease.

Other risk factors for heart disease include:

  • Insulin resistance or diabetes

  • Obesity

  • Sleep apnoea

  • High blood pressure

  • Family history of heart disease

  • Inactivity

  • Smoking

  • An unhealthy diet

  • Stress

  • Clinical depression

Image by Alexandru Acea

What are the symptoms?


  • Chest pain

  • Chest tightness

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Impaired performance

  • Tiredness

  • Irregular heartbeat 

  • Oedema, water retention

Vasculature of the Heart

How can a nutrition practitioner help?

Since heart disease is considered mainly diet and lifestyle related, there is a lot of scope for a nutrition practitioner to help. A nutrition practitioner will ask questions about your overall health and health history, diet, lifestyle and exercise habits. They will look at your food diary to see where there may be room for improvement. Your nutrition practitioner may also recommend functional testing. They will then develop a customised diet, supplement and lifestyle plan for you.

Find your Heart Disease


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