The Statistics

Cardiovascular disease is America's number one killer. According to research done by the National Heart Association in 2002, 70.1 million Americans were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease and approximately 1 million died. Women are more prone to it than men. Those who are overweight, smoke, have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol or any family history of cardiovascular disease are at greater risk of developing the disease.

How the Heart Works

One of the heart's primary functions is maintaining blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is important for proper blood flow within the arteries, which is 120 systolic and 80 diastolic. Blood pressure is generally higher when the heart pumps more blood and the diameter of the artery is smaller. Foods with high-fat content and saturated fat can clog arteries over time, which causes high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Stressful situations can also temporarily increase blood pressure levels.

Cholesterol is hard to avoid as all foods of animal origin have it, like eggs, red meat and shrimp. The digestive tract absorbs the cholesterol from the food, and the liver circulates it through the bloodstream. The liver also produces its own cholesterol. This combination can cause cholesterol to quickly accumulate in the bloodstream.