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Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the leading cause of death in the United States, affecting over 5 million Americans. CAD is a narrowing of the coronary arteries, the vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle, generally due to the buildup of plaques in the arterial walls (a process known as atherosclerosis). Plaques are composed of cholesterol-rich fatty deposits, collagen, other proteins, and excess smooth muscle cells.
Although CAD can be a life-threatening condition, the outcome of the disease is in many ways up to the patient. Damage to the arteries can be slowed or halted with lifestyle changes, including smoking cessation, dietary modifications and regular exercise, or by medications to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Additional goals of treatment, which may involve medication and sometimes surgery, are to relieve symptoms, ease circulation and prolong life.
You can reduce your risk for coronary artery disease by taking steps to living a healthier lifestyle.
- Don't smoke.
- Eat a diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt.
- Pursue a program of moderate, aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes, three days a week. People over age 50 who have led a sedentary lifestyle should check with a doctor before beginning an exercise program.
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- See your doctor regularly to have your blood pressure and cholesterol measured.
- Women at or approaching menopause may want to discuss the possible cardioprotective benefits of postmenopausal estrogen replacement therapy with their doctors.
The first question to ask is "What causes coronary artery disease?" The list is very long and extensive, but includes inflammation, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, stress and tobacco use. These are just some of the typical causes of coronary artery disease and we need to consider many that are much more complex such as proteins that run in families, for example LP(a). We now know that cholesterol, total cholesterol is only one risk factor in developing coronary artery disease. We need to know what is the good cholesterol or HDL.More importantly we need to know what is the level of HDL2B as this type of HDL is very important for pulling plaque out of the blood vessels. We need to know what type of LDL or bad cholesterol a person has. There are seven different types of LDL and the very small LDL particles are associated with coronary artery disease.
In recent years, inflammation has become very important in coronary artery disease development. All of the risk factors of coronary artery disease are preventable. Each and every risk factor that you identify should have a plan for its prevention and correction. Coronary artery disease is reversible.
Some risk factors for coronary artery disease cannot be prevented: aging, gender and family history, for example. However, there are many causes of coronary artery disease you can control through exercise, diet, medicines, and other lifestyle changes. Areas to target are obesity, smoking, physical inactivity, cholesterol and stress. Diabetes is a strong contributor to coronary artery disease that can have both hereditary and lifestyle elements. Managing diabetes is a key to heart health. Addressing these risk factors can prevent coronary artery disease in those who do not have a genetic predisposition for getting it, and can sometimes slow or halt the progress of the disease in those who do have it.
There are a number of things that people can do to reduce their risk of coronary artery disease. Changes to behavior include quitting smoking, increasing exercise levels, decreasing stress, and consuming healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These actions can make the disease less likely, but because there are other factors, such as hereditary conditions, they may not prevent it entirely. In those cases, medications and even surgery can help prevent a heart attack from occurring.
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.