You probably don’t need to be told that it’s your heart that’s keeping you alive. This small, pear-shaped organ that sits behind your breastbone is essentially a mighty pump that pushes your blood around your bloody. If you think of the fact that your heart does so continuously 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, whether you’re awake or asleep, running or resting, you’d probably gain a new appreciation for this little fist-sized muscle that never stops working and never ceases to deliver the life-sustaining oxygen to your cells.
Your cells need oxygen to function. As you eat, the molecules from the digested food enter your cells. As you inhale, fresh oxygen enters your blood stream. The cells burn food molecules and oxygen, producing energy necessary to sustain you. As a bi-product of that burning, your cells also produce carbon dioxide which needs to leave your body. As you exhale, the carbon dioxide that had reached your lungs is released. That entire process wouldn’t be possible without your natural pump—your heart. As your heart pumps, it accomplished two things: One, it delivers oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the cells, tissues, and organs in your body. Two, it brings back oxygen-depleted carbon dioxide-rich blood from the cells and organs back to the lungs. Your heart never stops working, and most of the time it works exceptionally well—except when heart disease develops.
Your heart consists of four chambers, blood vessels that bring blood into them, and valves that regulate the blood flow. When one or more components of this system begin to malfunction or function erratically, it disrupts the blood flow through the heart and the oxygen delivery to your cells.
A very common heart problem is atherosclerosis. A build-up of plaque in the arteries feeding the heart muscles, atherosclerosis is a slow cumulative process that takes time to develop. It can be asymptomatic for a long time because the heart compensates for the decreased blood flow, but the plague built-up weakens the heart muscle and injuries the heart. By the time heart problems are diagnosed, the arteriosclerosis may already reach an advanced phase, sometimes after decades of slow progress. When dangerous symptoms finally begin to manifest themselves—often after plaques have accumulated and the arteries are severely clogged—it can be too late to repair the damage. The blocked the arteries can cause heart failure.
But there’s good news. When detected early, these problems are usually preventable. The plague’s build-up can be slowed down, and often it’s actually reversible, with the right diet and treatment. From the holistic perspective, atherosclerosis is a manageable, avoidable and repairable condition. That’s why Dr. Yakovleva places an increased emphasis on the prevention of heart disease and developing an approach to lessen the risks once signs of problems appear.