In this article, I will be focussing on exploring and educating you on one of the most prolific conditions we see, and treat here at our lab in Hereford, Cardiovascular Disease (CVD).
CVD encompasses conditions such as Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), Hypertension, congenital heart defects, strokes, heart failure and more conditions that effect the circulatory system and heart. In this article we will help you understand elements of the disease and how you can help prevent and control the disease!
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These conditions see some crossover and are a little bit chicken and egg syndrome so, for the purpose of this article, we will concentrate on hypertension which is a major symptom and causator within CVD.
***This is a live document so that as research comes out and our new articles come out they will be linked. If there is a section that says "this link" and there isn't one its because we are updating that section for you!
The reason we are starting with hypertension is because this condition sits right smack in the middle of the equation for cardiovascular disease. It can appear both as a symptom of another pathology that has presented it
self such as obesity and diabetes or can be the primary cause of other systems failing!
Much like other diseases, hypertension follows a kind of cascade theory where by once you have a hypertensive bout it will cause further damage to the artery walls making them more stiff (arteriosclerosis) and therefore more prone to producing sustained higher pressures.
So, for instance, if you get stress induced hypertension for a long enough time period that it has damaged the artery walls, then the damage sustained may in fact have caused arteriosclerotic walls meaning that the arteries themselves then continue to keep the blood pressure higher.
However, short of resistant hypertension, hypertension is easily controlled with a mix of pharmacological and lifestyle interventions. This is why we are focussing on it!
What is it?
Amongst health professionals this is commonly referred to as the silent killer! This is largely because there are no obvious signs or symptoms of the condition. When most people find out they have hypertension it is after they have had a health screening and the Dr or health practitioner raises their eyebrows when assessing the pressure gauge while the band tried to squeeze your arm off!
On that note, The American Heart Association has a helpful little page here to help gauge your blood pressure results. If you don't have access to a blood pressure machine at home get in touch with us, if you are local, and we can do it for you. Alternatively, make an appointment with your local hypertension clinic for an assessment.
Hypertension is effectively defined as a raised blood pressure (hence hyper meaning "over" from greek). We define hypertension as a systolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg and a diastolic of 90 mmHg. To be officially diagnosed with chronic stage 1 hypertension you must have had 3 readings, carried out over three separate occasions, each scoring in the stage 1 bracket.
An issue with Hypertension is that it is highly sporadic and situational. That moment you think you are in trouble, or that person decides to poke the bear on the wrong morning and your blood pressure rises to new levels, isn't necessarily going to give you the most accurate result if you are having your blood pressure taken.
Also getting nervous whilst its being taken may cause it to look higher than it is usually and why you aren't diagnosed after just one measurement.
As an example, we do the tests regularly to get our clients familiar with them and that prevents the condition known as "white coat" syndrome messing up their measurements.
To understand why the blood pressure may chronically be raised we need to understand the mechanisms and physiology involved. To do that read this article!
Who Does it Effect?
Well, according to the British heart foundation (BHF), there are roughly 7 million people living in the UK with cardiovascular disease. Unlike other diseases such as osteoporosis, where the disease tends to trend towards one sex over another, CVD affects around 3.5 million women and 3.5 million men.However, Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), where the arteries stiffen up and become filled with plaques of blood and cholesterol, is the UK/Worlds biggest killer.
When one of the plaques break off they head to your heart where they provide you with a heart attack. This tends to affect 1 in 7 men and 1 in 11 women. Largely due to the protective effect that women's hormones have until aged 55 in comparison to men becoming more susceptible at 45.
The takeaway point from this is that CVD doesn't care who you are or what you do you are just as likely to get it as everyone else. Well, unless of course you adopt the following...
How can we Prevent it?
Now that we know what hypertension is, lets look at what we can do to prevent it.
The important take home from here is that is it our decisions in our mid-life that effect the likelihood of the disease in later life. Obviously, there are the unlucky few that have hereditary hypertension. However, even the lifestyle they lead will effect how quickly that that will start to worsen!
The points to look at here are:
If we get these right then they will drastically improve your odds at being able to prevent onset of the condition.
Nutrition is the single biggest factor for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Learning to balance your food intake now, prior to getting any symptoms of the disease will pay off dividends in quality of life later down the line.
The nutritional changes required are usually minor and painless and I will discuss them later as they are also in line with the steps taken to reduce the disease once we have got them.
Exercise is imperative to maintain healthy arteries and heart. A healthy mix of cardiovascular and resistance exercise will mean that your body is protected from cardiovascular diseases, amongst others!
The best way to construct your exercise programs is to get 3 sessions of whole body resistance training in a week. Start each one with a 15 minute warmup and, on two additional days, do 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity. The recommended weekly amount of cardiovascular exercise is 150 minutes. However, most people are way under this! so the 115 minutes from the prescription above plus the raised heart rate from the resistance training plan will provide you with 115 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise + the 135 minutes of resistance exercise. ~obviously build yourself up slowly, don't go in at the deep end with olympic lifting on day 2 of leaving the sofa!
Usually the changes above are the most thats needed to prevent the disease. However, lifestyle factors such as smoking and large numbers of takeaways will also need to be addressed.
How can we Control it/Fix it?
Strangely, the points mentioned above in prevention are more or less the same here except we are now fighting against a disease thats had chance to progress.
Because of this there are additional steps that need to be taken.
The Priority here is to control the disease first. Let's stop it from progressing. At this point we want to stop the blood pressures getting higher and the artery walls becoming increasingly more damaged.
To do this, let's start by getting you down to the Doctors and they will more than likely prescribe various anti-hypertensive tablets specific to your various pathology and then after a 5-day loading period we then know you are safe to train.
After this, let's focus on getting a nice dose of growth hormone released from your resistance exercise to cause the healing of the artery walls. This will allow them to become more elastic again thereby reducing the pressure in them.
The reason, some may disagree, that I always put nutrition after exercise for people with hypertension is that the condition is very much related to stress. I have never met people as stressed as when you start to talk about the food they put in their mouths. As a result of this our personalised approach on our hypertension program is to start them off on optimising their exercise first. This will usually start to facilitate reductions in their hypertension without nutritional intervention.
Once the clients have got to the point where they are happy in their new exercise regime then we start to look at what they're eating. The clients will usually be the ones to push first on the nutrition and this is usually a good sign they are ready to start changing.
At Faultless Fitness we use an array of apps to log and monitor our clients intake. We can see what their calorie count is, the amount of protein, fat and carbs in their diet and we can see their meal timing.
Rather than just giving them a plan we wrote for someone else, and pigeon holing them, each client then goes through a unique journey on their nutrition. We educate and coach our clients so even if they leave us they remain able to keep their hypertension down. We see this as a real investment in their health.
The trick here, for people that aren't able to utilise our online or local health programs, is to reduce the sugar in your diet first. Switch to longer chain carbohydrates by keeping your food in meal times and having 4 meals a day. This will stop any damage to the artery walls from sugar levels spiking.
At the same time you want to balance the fats, protein and carbohydrates out in your diet. This will mean that each meal's calories constitutes 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fats (half unsaturated and half saturated fat). This will reduce the amount of adipose tissue you generate from excess macronutrients per meal and should reduce cholesterol from excess lipids floating through the blo
od stream. When you achieve this you will reduce the narrowing of the artery walls from them furring up, thereby stopping the progression of your hypertension.
Whilst optimising your nutrition and exercise, an ongoing theme is lifestyle/psychology change. What are we putting on our shopping lists, how are we spending our time at home? Are we sat down or active? How stressed are we? Are we smoking or eating to cope with that stress?
One of the things we need to do is reduce the stress stimulus in your life and thats something only you can do. Become more organised or share your workload where possible.
If you can't reduce your workload, increase the time you have given yourself to unwind and then optimise your ability to destress. There is a vast amount of techniques for this.
CVD is a truly debilitating disease. However, with the right attitude it is NOT a death sentence. We can regain a good quality of life and we can seemingly undo the damage even after years of suffering. Don't let it beat you and do not sleep walk into it.