During the covid epidemic, some people test themselves with a blood oxygen machine. However, even with a constant blood oxygen concentration of over 99 percent; some people have still been diagnosed as having “heart hypoxia” when they go for a health check.
People are breathing 24 hours a day, how can there be a lack of oxygen? Why is that? What are the warning signs of heart hypoxia?
Three Hypoxia Conditions
Liu Jhong-ping, a cardiologist and the Director of Yu Ping Clinic in Taiwan, said there are three conditions that can cause hypoxia:
- The first condition is when oxygen inhaled into the body is not enough.
Examples are drowning, choking on food, or low blood oxygen due to COVID-19 or other lung diseases.
Liu Jhong-ping pointed out that this condition causes hypoxia in the whole body. When patients use their fingers to test their blood concentration level with the blood oxygen machine, this decrease in oxygen concentration level can often be detected.
- The second condition is a poor blood supply
One reason for this condition may be the patient’s blood vessels being naturally prone to spasms, which results in poor blood circulation. Another reason may be caused by the patient’s poor living habits. When fat and bad cholesterol accumulate on the blood vessel walls and become increasingly thickened due to these poor habits, the patient’s blood vessels become narrower and more hardened. This results in atherosclerosis, which prevents the blood from flowing smoothly throughout the body.
If the blood supply to individual organs is insufficient, local hypoxia may occur. For example, when the heart does not get enough oxygen, heart hypoxia may result.
Liu Jhong-ping pointed out that most hypoxia, including cardiac hypoxia, is local hypoxia, which cannot be measured by a blood oxygen machine.
Other cases of local hypoxia include necrosis due to accidents causing a limb to be crushed by a heavy object, or people tying rubber bands to their fingers which causes their fingers to turn black due to restricted blood flow.
- The third condition is the inability of red blood cells to carry enough oxygen
The heme in red blood cells stores oxygen, and red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body. If there is insufficient hemoglobin, the ability of red blood cells to store oxygen decreases as a result. Likewise, without enough red blood cells, the blood cannot transport enough oxygen to the whole body. Therefore, patients with poorly functioning red blood cells or severe anemia are prone to local hypoxia.
Hypoxia Cause Heart Problem
Cardiac hypoxia can be called hypoxic lesions or ischemic heart disease, and the most important cause is the blockage of coronary arteries in the heart. The occurrence of hypoxia can be divided into chronic and acute:
- Acute cardiac hypoxia
Acute hypoxia occurs when acute platelet aggregation occurs in blood vessels, resulting in thrombus obstruction. Myocardial infarction belongs to this category. The attack comes quickly and violently, and people often fall down quickly. Myocardial infarction can occur because the walls of the blood vessels are weak, or when a blood clot suddenly occurs because of fatigue or not drinking enough water for the day.
- Chronic cardiac hypoxia
Compared to acute cardiac hypoxia, chronic cardiac hypoxia is more common.
The main reason is poor blood supply, and another reason is related to anemia. Liu Jhong-ping said that in clinical diagnosis, the patient’s hemoglobin level is often examined at the same time.
Symptoms of chronic cardiac hypoxia: chest tightness, chest pain, shortness of breath. If these symptoms occur easily while walking or exercising, the patient should pay extra attention.
Because of high cholesterol levels and smoking habits, the blood vessels of many people have become more and more narrow, and they are prone to experience shortness of breath and chest pain while walking. However, most people tend to think of it as a trivial matter and forget about it when the symptoms go away. Liu Jhong-ping pointed out that if the patient does not receive treatment promptly, the heart can remain hypoxic for a long time, and the following conditions may occur: movements becoming weaker and weaker, severe arrhythmia, heart failure, and myocardial infarction.
Chronic hypoxia can also become acute, causing myocardial infarction. Therefore, if anyone has symptoms such as easy wheezing and chest tightness, it is recommended that they go to the hospital to receive a proper check-up on their heart conditions, rather than just relying on measurements taken from the blood oxygen machine, let alone ignoring the symptoms altogether.
Food to Prevent Heart Hypoxia
Before menopause, the majority of patients with cardiac hypoxia are men. The reason is that women have female hormones to provide protection before menopause, and their cardiovascular health is often relatively healthy. Most female patients start to have cardiovascular disease only after menopause when the proportion of male and female patients becomes closer to each other.
Cardiac hypoxia is more common in patients between the ages of 45 and 65 both male and female. This condition is mostly caused by vascular stenosis and sclerosis, which are related to aging, cholesterol level, and smoking. “If a person starts smoking and eating high-fat and high-sugar food from a young age, toxic substances would have built up for more than 20 years at this age. Once the person is over 40 years old, heart conditions are more prone to occur, and this possibility reaches the peak after the age of 45,” said Liu Jhong-ping.
To prevent heart hypoxia, avoid smoking, reduce consumption of high-fat and high-sugar foods, exercise more, and avoid overwork. At the same time, eat foods that are good for blood vessels and blood cells:
- Foods containing water-soluble dietary fiber
Water-soluble dietary fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the intestinal tract and expel the bad cholesterol. It prevents blood vessels from becoming narrow, allows blood to flow smoothly throughout the body, and prevents local hypoxia.
Foods rich in soluble dietary fiber: oats, potatoes, pumpkin, huaishan, okra, mushrooms, seaweed, cauliflower, carrots, melons, apples, pears, bananas, kiwi, and citrus.
Fish is a good source of high-quality protein and polyunsaturated fatty acid Omega-3, which is good for blood vessels and red blood cells.
Protein helps in the production of red blood cells, and Omega-3 has the effect of preventing atherosclerosis because Omega-3 helps to remove fat from the blood vessels and stabilize atherosclerotic plaque.
An epidemiological survey in Greenland shows that the incidence of ischemic heart disease in Greenlanders is rare, and it is related to their omega-3-rich diet.
Fish high in omega-3 include salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, and sardines.
- Allium and cruciferous vegetables
These two types of vegetables contain organosulfur compounds which allow blood to flow smoothly in the arteries and prevent chronic hypoxia.
Studies have shown that organosulfur compounds can reduce cholesterol synthesis in liver cells and therefore inhibit platelet aggregation. If platelets are allowed to aggregate easily, narrowing of blood vessels is more likely to occur.
Organosulfur compounds can also prevent atherosclerosis and re-occlusion of treated coronary arteries.
Common allium vegetables: garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, and chives.
Cruciferous vegetables: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, curly kale, arugula, napa cabbage, carrots, Brussels sprouts.
- Meat, fish, and shellfish
Iron is a necessary mineral for the synthesis of heme. Without enough iron, the synthesis of heme can be insufficient, and the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells will be adversely affected. Liu Jhong-ping added that if there is insufficient hemoglobin, the number of red blood cells will also be relatively small.
Meat, fish, and shellfish are ideal iron-supplementing foods with high iron content. This is because the human body’s absorption rate and utilization rate of animal iron is higher than those of plant iron.
In addition, eating iron-rich foods together with vegetables and fruits which contain vitamin C can improve the absorption of iron.
Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C are guavas, papaya, grapefruit, strawberry, kiwi, orange, and tomato, amongst others.
An egg is a relatively nutrient-dense food that contains the nutrients needed to prevent anemia and to produce heme and red blood cells: protein, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folic acid, copper, iron, and vitamin D plus others.
Some people worry that eating too many eggs can raise cholesterol levels. But a 2018 report shows that cholesterol in food has little effect on the body. Rather, it is saturated fatty acids that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. This study mentioned that eggs contain high-quality protein and the least saturated fatty acids. A large egg (50 grams/1.76 oz) contains only 1.56 grams (0.006 oz) of saturated fatty acids and is therefore a healthy affordable food.
By developing a habit of eating balanced diets, one can naturally absorb these nutrients. Liu Jhong-ping shared that after taking medicine, developing good eating habits, and exercising properly, his patients generally show an improvement in their heart hypoxia conditions.