Boosting the health of the five vital organs of the body
AS we continue our discuss on diets that guarantee wellness our focus moves from creating such diets, generally, to the wellbeing of specific organs of the body. I begin today with the heart.
The heart, like we all know is the organ that pumps blood through out the body. The heart is divided into left and right halves where they play different roles. Blood, having been well oxygenated in the lungs moves into the upper portion of the left half, known as the left atrium. From the left atrium, this blood is pumped into the left ventricle. The left ventricle is the most powerful of the four chambers of the heart. It is from here that blood is pump to the whole of the body.
The blood leaves the heart by the great vessels, the aorta, ascending and descending. The aorta divides into arteries, arterioles and capillaries, which supply blood to every cell of the body. Deoxygenated blood is transported through tiny vessels known as venules, which increase in their lumen to eventually form the inferior and superior vena cavae. It is these large veins that pump blood ultimately back to the right half of the heart.
The blood arrives at the right atrium and moves down to the right ventricle, which eventually pump it to the lungs to discharge the carbon dioxide and pick up oxygen. The heart itself receives its blood supply from the great vessels by the coronary arteries to form the mess of blood supply to the heart. This brief description of the blood supply to the whole body and most importantly, the heart will help us to understand the cause of heart disease as we go on.
Cause of heart disease
Blockage or narrowing of these vessels can lead to what is known as coronary heart disease. As this narrowing increase, a left sided chest pain known, as angina will set in due to a reduction in blood, oxygen and nutrient supply to the heart. Total blockage of a coronary artery that supplies a section of the heart causes death of that portion of the heart-giving rise to what is known as heart attack. The commonest cause of narrowing of the coronary artery is atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the build up of cholesterol and fatty deposits known as plaques on the inner wall of the artery.
There are certain risk factors associated with coronary heart disease and they include, dehydration, family history, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, stress, and lack of exercise, hyperlipidemia and obesity. More than a risk factor, long standing dehydration can be considered a cause of atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis and dehydration
In my article on the management of hypertension, I explained how dehydration causes the brain to send signals to the liver to begin to produce more cholesterol, which come into use when the body goes into a rationing mode as a result of dehydration. In a state of dehydration, water is redistributed from the muscles, bones and joints to the brain, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys – the five vital organs of the body.
Cholesterol will have to be deposited between the cells in the walls of the capillaries to take over the usual adhesive function of water between the cells. Cholesterol, being impermeable to water, drastically reduces the passage of water out of the blood in the capillaries into the muscles. These cholesterol deposits initially found between the cells will eventually begin to grow into the lumen of the capillaries where they join together to form plaques. At this time also, the blood level of cholesterol is very high and increasing ones daily consumption of water and sustaining it there can easily manage such hypercholesterolemia.
Principles of Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease
The first principle is to drink sufficient water on a daily basis. I will not belabour this principle because I believe that a lot of the readers of this column now practice this principle.
What you eat plays a very significant role in ensuring the good health of the heart. To begin with, whatever you eat must not be excessive. Do not over eat.
You will have to eat more of some food, reduce some and avoid others entirely to keep your heart healthy throughout your life. To keep your heart healthy, you have to eat more of the low calorie, nutrient rich foods like fresh, raw vegetables and fruits. They are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber and substances that directly prevent heart disease.
Whole grains like whole wheat and oats, brown rice, barley and ground flaxseed are also high in fiber, minerals and vitamins.