I would make a terrible teacher. In the first place, the more children I have, the less I can tolerate large groups of them. I don’t mind them at parties or at the playground where they are supposed to act like children. I don’t mind them in small groups when they can occasionally pull off cute and entertaining. But, when I am around children in a situation where they are supposed to be listening and learning, I want to pull my hair out. Their fidgeting, giggling and calling out brings out the old, crotchety lady in me and I have to be thankful that I do not yet have a cane with which to hit them. Worse still, is their insistence on sharing personal life stories that have absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand. Anyway, where was I? I couldn’t be a teacher because, even in print, I hate to ask you to go back and read the “lesson” from yesterday. In this particular case though, if you could read just the part on how resistance in the arteries contributes to high blood pressure, today’s entry might be clearer. It will not be on the exam.
1. Atherosclerosis describes the build-up of fatty material on the inside of the arteries. This build-up hardens and becomes calcified, resulting in a narrowing of the arteries. It also decreases the elasticity of the artery. You can compare it to a clogged drain. Mine is narrowed from all the hair I have been pulling out of my head. I have to stop volunteering at the school or I will go broke on Liquid Plumber.
2. The narrowing and hardening of the arteries increases the resistance that the heart has to pump against which in turn, increases blood pressure. As you know if you were paying attention yesterday (maybe I would make a good teacher), increased blood pressure is the sign that your heart is working harder than it should.
3. In addition to increasing the demand on your heart, atherosclerosis puts you at risk for stroke, heart attack, and pulmonary embolism. Pieces of the fatty or calcified deposits can break off and get lodged in smaller vessels in your heart, brain or lungs. The irregularities in the walls of the vessels also make the blood flow turbulent and that turbulence increases your risk of developing blood clots. These clots will move through the circulatory system until they get lodged somewhere down the line.
4. Risk factors for atherosclerosis include high cholesterol, a high fat diet, smoking, heavy alcohol intake, high blood pressure, family history of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
5. Symptoms do not occur until an artery becomes blocked, clots form and travel or a piece of the plaque breaks off. By then, it can be too late. Some degree of atherosclerosis is a normal part of aging. Prevention, by adjusting your lifestyle to avoid the risk factors mentioned above, is the best way to control further development of atherosclerosis. By seeing your doctor regularly, you can screen for high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and discuss your personal risk factors to see if you should have additional screening tests.
There are several systems in the body that are very similar to plumbing and machinery. As in your toilets and your car engines, it is important to keep your body’s pipes and lines clean and free of any blockages or sludge. You don’t pour bacon grease down your sink. You get your car’s oil changed regularly. Try to think about your body the same way. When you are in the drive-through line, consider not only what a Big Mac will do to your weight, but what it will deposit on your vessels. When the guy in front of you forgets to move up, consider what your cursing and steering wheel pounding will do to your blood pressure, and what that, in turn, will do to your heart. It is unrealistic for most of us to treat our bodies like a temple. We can try, though, not to treat them like a sewer.
Tomorrow, coronary artery disease.
After this entry, I am fully expecting a letter asking me to resign from all my volunteer duties at my children’s school. Really … let me have it, don’t feel bad. I am waiting for it.