Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when the blood vessels (coronary arteries) that carry blood to the heart get blocked with plaque. The plaque collection is called atherosclerosis and is made up of fat deposits.
Over time, the plaque can harden inside the walls of the arteries and block the blood flow to the heart. That blockage can then lead to angina (squeezing pain or pressure in the chest), a heart attack, or death. Coronary artery disease can lead to other problems, too, including heart failure and irregular heartbeat.
Coronary Artery Disease Prevention Tips
Is there a way to avoid coronary artery disease? While coronary artery disease is considered one the leading cause of death in adults, the condition is easily preventable.
Preventing coronary artery disease is largely about controlling the risk factors and starting and maintaining healthy habits early. The following recommendations can reduce risks of getting coronary artery disease:
Smoking contributes to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for coronary artery disease. Also steer clear of secondhand smoke. You may ask your doctor if you need help with quitting smoking.
Control blood pressure
Blood pressure refers to the force of blood moving against the artery walls as the heart beats. A higher blood pressure will increase the force exerted against those walls.
Over time, this can damage the arteries and lead to coronary artery disease.
Check with your doctor on the right blood pressure reading for you based on your age and health. If your numbers go beyond the acceptable range, work with your doctor on a plan to reduce blood pressure. Take blood pressure medicine as prescribed and follow a healthy diet.
Limit alcohol intake
Too much alcohol can be dangerous to the heart. This means a maximum of 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink for women. It can lead to high blood pressure, obesity, and heart failure.
Control blood sugar levels
People with diabetes share the same risk factors with coronary artery disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.
Uncontrolled high blood sugar damages arteries, which can lead to heart disease. Work with your doctor to keep blood sugar levels under control.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Eat foods that will keep you healthy and protect your heart, and less of those that will increase risks of coronary artery disease.
Most health experts recommend a low-fat, high-fiber diet. Choose fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, and whole grains and try to avoid processed, high fat, high sodium, and sugary foods.
Make sure to get enough sleep
Sleep deprivation can raise the risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, which may contribute to heart disease.
Maintain an active lifestyle
Regular exercise will make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient, lower your cholesterol level, and also keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
Set workout goals, such as at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate exercise each week, or
75 minutes (1.25 hours) of vigorous aerobic exercise each week. You can also opt to be active
for 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. If necessary, discuss your workout program with your doctor.
Maintain a healthy weight
Keep your weight within the normal range on a Body Mass Index (BMI) chart. If you’re overweight, losing just 5 percent to 10 percent of current weight will lower the risk of developing coronary artery disease.
Find healthy ways to relieve stress
Stress leads to some habits that may add to risks of contracting coronary artery disease, such as overeating and drinking. Healthier outlets for stress include exercise, meditation, and relaxing with friends.
Coronary Artery Disease Prevention: How is coronary artery disease diagnosed?
A full medical evaluation of the possibility of coronary artery disease includes a physical exam; an interview regarding symptoms, family history, diet, activity level, and other medical conditions; and various tests. These tests include the following:
- Electrocardiogram (EKG). This painless, simple test involves putting electrodes on the chest to monitor the heart’s beat and rhythm. It also tests the strength and timing of the heart’s electrical signals.
- Stress test. This test includes exercise to give your heart a workout. While exercising, you will be connected to heart, blood pressure, and oxygen monitors to detect changes in heart rate, rhythm, electrical activity, blood pressure, shortness of breath, or chest pain. Response to the stress test may indicate the presence of a blockage and the need for additional testing.
- Chest X-ray. This X-ray focuses on the heart and can detect signs of heart failure.
- Blood tests. The lab will test for risk factors of coronary artery disease and test for certain fats, cholesterol, sugar, and proteins.
- Cardiac catheterization and coronary angiogram. This procedure is normally done if other tests are positive for coronary artery disease. During the procedure, a thin, flexible tube is inserted into a blood vessel in the arm, groin (upper thigh), or neck.
The tube will then be moved to the coronary arteries. A dye will be injected, which will be monitored by an X-ray as it travels through the coronary arteries. This allows the doctor to see the blood flow through the heart and blood vessels.
Coronary artery disease treatment
Most people who have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease have been prescribed with medicine to help manage their symptoms.
- Specific medications relieve angina, reduce chances of a heart attack, lower blood pressure, and reduce cholesterol. Some of these medicines, however, have side effects, so it is important to discuss all medical issues with your doctor.
- Angioplasty is a surgical treatment often used for coronary artery disease. The surgery aims to open blocked arteries around the heart.
- Heart bypass surgery is another surgical treatment for coronary artery disease. This moves blood past a blockage and increases the blood flow to the heart. Doctors will usually resort to bypass surgery when an angioplasty is not possible or when the doctor feels that it is the better choice for the patient.
Though coronary artery disease is among the leading causes of deaths in adults, it is also a preventable disease.
And an important step in coronary artery disease prevention, is maintaining heart-healthy habits as early as possible.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.