How to Prevent Coronary Artery Disease

CAD, coronary artery disease, occurs when blood flow through the coronary arteries is reduced. The coronary arteries are tasked with carrying blood to a person’s heart muscle. Also called CHD, coronary heart disease, CAD affects approximately 16.5 million people over the age of 20.

A person’s risk of developing CAD is higher if they suffer from high cholesterol. More specifically, a high level of LDL, low-density lipoprotein, will increase the likelihood of CAD.

What Is the Cause of CAD?

CAD results from the buildup of sticky cholesterol, along with other substances in the artery walls. The official name of the buildup is plaque. It will harden, causing the arteries passages to be narrower than normal, which means less blood is able to move through them. When the arteries harden, the condition is called atherosclerosis.

People who are most likely to suffer from CAD include those who are overweight or obese, smoke tobacco, have a family history of heart disease, have higher levels of LDL cholesterol, eat a diet full of fat and sugar, have diabetes or uncontrolled high blood pressure, or who are mostly inactive.

The Risks of CAD

The heart muscle must have a steady supply of blood for it to pump properly. If there is too little blood in the heart muscle, it may cause angina, which is a type of chest pain. If there is a total blockage in one or more of the coronary arteries, it can cause a heart attack. Any part of the heart muscle that does not get plenty of blood may die, which will cause serious heart damage, and sometimes, death. If someone suspects this condition, they should consider setting up an appointment with a cardiologist to develop a treatment plan.

There are also several steps a person can take on their own to reduce the risk of CAD. Some of those are highlighted below.

Eat a Healthy Diet 

There are some foods that will naturally protect the heart. Others can contribute to the formation of plaques that clog the arteries. It is a good idea to include more protective foods, such as olive oil, nuts, lean protein, vegetables, fruits, and fish in a person’s diet. Try to limit the use of red or processed meats, sweets, full-fat dairy products, and fried foods. Also, never eat more than a teaspoon of salt in a day. Increased levels of sodium can cause high blood pressure.

Be Active

Aerobic exercise helps to strengthen the heart muscle. It also helps to reduce blood pressure, trim fat, and increase the positive HDL cholesterol levels. Losing weight by working out can also help to minimize LDL cholesterol levels.

It is recommended by experts that each person get 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. They could opt to do 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise each week. For those new to exercising, it is a good idea to speak with their doctor first, which is going to ensure it is safe to do so.

Lose Weight

When someone is overweight or obese, it may put a strain on their blood vessels and heart. By just losing five to 10 percent of a person’s total body weight, it is possible to reduce LDL cholesterol and blood pressure. It may also help to reduce the possibility of CAD.

If someone has a difficult time losing weight and they need assistance, a doctor can refer them to a dietician or nutritionist. There are also phone apps that can help someone track their progress and stay motivated.

Stop Smoking

Most people don’t realize how many chemicals they expose their bodies to each time they smoke a cigarette or cigar. These chemicals are causing serious damage to the heart each time someone lights up. If a person is smoking now, they can reduce the likelihood of having a heart attack by stopping.

While quitting is not an easy (or fun) process, most doctors can recommend a few different methods to help. These include things like nicotine replacement products, counseling, and medications. All these things can help reduce a person’s urge and need to smoke. The American Lung Association also offers several resources to find support for those who are committed to stopping smoking for good.

Reduce Blood Pressure

Blood pressure refers to the force of the blood moving against the artery walls as a person’s heartbeats. The higher a person’s blood pressure is, the more force that is being exerted against the walls. As time passes, high blood pressure may cause serious damage to the arteries, making them more likely to develop a condition called atherosclerosis.

Normal blood pressure readings should be around 120 over 80 mark. It is a good idea for a person to ask their doctor what their numbers need to be based on their current health and age. If a person is out of range, they should work with their doctor to develop a plan to reduce blood pressure levels.

Limit Alcohol Consumption

A single glass of red wine may help reduce HDL cholesterol; however, if someone consumers too much alcohol, it can be quite damaging to the heart. When drank in excess, alcohol may contribute to high blood pressure, heart failure, and obesity. It is best to drink in moderation – a single drink per day for women and one or two for men. However, a person should ask their doctor if it is safe for them to drink anything at all.

Control Blood Sugar

CAD is the top cause of death for people who have diabetes. There are some conditions that may have many of the same risk factors, including obesity, higher LDL cholesterol, and higher blood pressure.

When it comes to CAD, there are more than a few factors to consider. Be sure to keep the information here in mind to have the best chance of preventing the problem. Don’t underestimate the impact that this condition can have on a person’s health and well-being. Being informed is the best way to stay healthy. 

The experienced physicians at Carolina Cardiology Associates are committed to the health of every patient who walks through our doors. We understand the challenges of cardiovascular disease and will work with you to provide treatment, education, and a plan for the future to help you live your healthiest life.