The heart is a muscle that pumps oxygenated blood from the arteries throughout the body. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the buildup of fatty deposits in the coronary arteries, the arteries that supply blood to the heart. These fatty substances, such as cholesterol, fat or cells that collect along the lining of the coronary arteries are called plaque. Most of the plaque build-up, either in the heart or the blood vessels, develops over the course of time. Because the arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart, any blockage left untreated can result in the risk of the patient experiencing a heart attack, stroke or even death.
What are the risk factors for heart disease?
The patients most likely to develop heart disease have the following risk factors:
- High blood pressure
- A close relative with heart disease
- High LDL cholesterol level
- High triglycerides
- Kidney disease
- Lack of regular exercise
How is heart disease diagnosed?
If a patient has risk factors that would cause them to develop heart disease or if they have already experienced symptoms, the doctor may recommend the following tests:
- Exercise stress test
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
- Chest X-ray
- Blood tests
The results of these tests may indicate the need for further testing.
How can I lower my cholesterol levels?
Cholesterol is a substance that is found in the bloodstream and body cells. It does serve a purpose, but too much cholesterol in a patients system is not healthy. It can also be a risk factor for heart disease.
The liver is responsible for producing the cholesterol that is made in the body. Cholesterol is also found in the foods that come from animal sources. This includes meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products. Patients can lower their cholesterol by eating more fish, fruits, vegetables and grains. They can also lower their cholesterol by reducing the level of fats in their dairy products and choosing leaner cuts of meat. Adopting an exercise program, which has been shown to help increase levels of HDL, the good cholesterol, and losing excess weight will also help to lower cholesterol levels.
How can I prevent or slow the progression of heart disease?
Patients can help prevent or slow down the advancement of heart disease by adhering to the following regimen:
- Quitting Smoking
- Lowering your blood pressure
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising on a regular basis
- Getting regular medical check-ups