8 Reasons for Heart Failure and How to Reverse Them
The heart is just a pump, a muscle. It’s simple. It squeezes the blood inside of it and valves determine how the blood flows through it. Each time the muscle contracts it squeezes about 50% to 70% of the blood out. The right side pushes the blood through the lungs. That’s all. The left side pushes the blood through the whole rest of the body – a big task!
However, the heart isn’t alone in this. There are muscles throughout the arteries that help the blood flow all the way to the capillaries, and then back to the heart through the veins. The arteries open, or relax, when the heart contracts, lowering the pressure, and allowing the blood to fill the vessels. Then, when the heart relaxes, the arteries contract to push the blood through the capillaries. This is a beautiful system of alternating contractions that keeps the blood flowing without putting too much strain on the heart.
Your heart beats about one time every second. That’s about 3600 times every hour, 86,000 times per day or over 30 million times every year. That’s a lot of beats. When does your heart get to rest? What happens if it relaxes a little and just stops beating for a few minutes? Never! There is no rest for the heart muscles as long as we live! It has to keep on working. How does it do this? The heart has to regenerate all its energy every 10 seconds!
The cells in our heart are the opposite of what we might expect. We may think that the energy is used when the muscle contracts, but that is not the case. Energy is actually used when the muscle relaxes. It’s like a mousetrap. You are putting energy into the mousetrap when you set it, then you carefully put it down. Only a tiny mouse-like touch of the trigger will make it snap, releasing the energy. The heart muscle is the same. It requires energy to set the muscle, then a tiny electrical impulse makes it snap, contract all the way, and reset again. If there is less energy, the process of resetting is slower. If it takes more than a second to reset, the electrical impulse can pass by and the cell won’t contract, thus decreasing the amount of blood the heart can pump.
The power plant of all cells is called mitochondria. These are tiny bacteria-like organelles living a separate life inside your cells whose main purpose is to make energy. There may be anywhere from one in a cell, to thousands. Liver cells have about 1000 – 2000 per cell, heart cells have over 10,000 per cell. About 40% of the volume of a heart muscle cell is filled with mitochondria. The rest of the heart is proteins that contract. That’s why they don’t need to rest. They can keep going for many years, beating constantly, and always having enough energy.
8 Reasons for Heart Failure
When the system works, as it mostly does, it’s an amazingly coordinated system. However, when it doesn’t work well problems begin: the heart can’t get the blood circulating well, causing congestive heart failure, or CHF. For example, if the blood vessels are stiff, then the heart must do all the work and the muscle thickens to keep up. If for any reason it can’t compensate then the blood backs up, causing swelling in the ankles and fluid in the lungs with shortness of breath. There are many ways the heart can stop working, slow down, or become weak. The principle reasons are:
- High blood pressure
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Diminished flow to the heart
High blood pressure is a symptom of many different diseases. If the cause is not discovered, it can lead to heart problems. Very often, heart disease and clogging of arteries are not caused by high blood pressure, but rather the other way around. When the arteries are not compliant they don’t help the heart, and the heart has to put out extra pressure to compensate – to get the blood all the way to the capillaries. This puts extra strain on the heart.
By itself, the extra strain on the heart isn’t the problem – the heart can take it! However, if there is also a problem with energy production in the heart, it will need more rest to regain the power needed. That’s where the problem lies, in a lack of energy, not high pressure.
The effect of type 2 diabetes on the heart is due primarily to the increase in fat in the blood. The heart runs mostly on fat. About 70% of the energy of the heart comes from fat, the rest comes from sugar and protein. However, when there is too much fat, it can get into the cell directly and becomes toxic. The cell then uses energy to get the excess fat out and has less energy to contract. Also, the proteins that get the fat out cause the mitochondria to “uncouple” the system and make less energy. It’s like the cell has to run on 12 volts instead of 120 volts. It goes, but not as well. It may take longer to reset the muscle cell, and less blood is pumped.
3. Nutrient Deficiency
There are several nutrient deficiencies that can contribute to heart failure. Most of them have to do with the mitochondria, or the ability to produce energy. Deficiency in any of the nutrients used in the production of energy can allow heart failure. Common deficiencies include: