Lifestyle Choices can Reduce the Risk of Coronary Artery Disease

Approximately half of all premature deaths occur as a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices on the part of the individual. They may not exercise regularly, eat a poor diet, or smoke. When they do so, they increase their risk of several diseases, including heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Fortunately, they can reduce this risk by making lifestyle changes. 

A study looked at 55,000 individuals who didn’t smoke, maintained a healthy weight, exercised regularly, and followed a healthy diet. The study found that they reduced their risk of coronary artery disease by nearly 50 percent when compared to those who make unhealthy lifestyle choices. Coronary artery disease serves as the most common type of heart disease seen in America today. 

What is Coronary Artery Disease?

Often referred to as coronary heart disease or ischemic heart disease, this condition occurs when a person when plaque accumulates in artery walls leading to the heart. This plaque contains cholesterol deposits and other substances. As it increases in the arteries, it causes them to narrow. This leads to a partial or total blockage of blood flow through a process known as atherosclerosis. Healthy lifestyle choices help to reduce this plaque buildup and can reverse it once it occurs. 

Guidelines for a Healthy Lifestyle

The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology came together to provide guidelines for individuals looking to prevent coronary artery disease. These guidelines provide information on lifestyle and behavioral changes a person can make to lower their risk of this disease. The guidelines focus on a number of areas, including weight management, tobacco use, diet, and exercise. When creating these guidelines, they pulled from current evidence that shows healthy lifestyle choices not only reduce the risk of a person dying prematurely as a result of heart disease but also of becoming disabled as a result of this condition. 

The guidelines offer a number of suggestions. For example, they recommend people eat fish, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Furthermore, they tell people they should limit their sodium intake, eat fewer refined carbohydrates, and drink fewer sweetened beverages. Furthermore, according to the guidelines, people should avoid trans fats. 

Additional Lifestyle Changes

The guidelines make recommendations on a number of other changes people can make to lower their risk of heart problems. They refer to the lifestyle changes by the acronym ABCDES. What does this stand for? 

Alcohol

Researchers continue to debate the benefits associated with light to moderate alcohol consumption. Nevertheless, they agree that excessive alcohol consumption puts a person at higher risk of heart and kidney disease as well as death. People want to know how much alcohol is too much. According to these guidelines, a person should not consume more than 100 grams of alcohol each week, which is the equivalent of approximately seven drinks. A standard drink today contains 14 grams of alcohol, so a person could drink seven 12-ounce beers over a seven-day period, 35 ounces of wine, or 10.5 ounces of distilled spirits under these guidelines without overdoing it. 

Blood Pressure

Men and women need to monitor their blood pressure, as many people suffer from this condition but don’t know that they have it. Carolina Cardiology Consultants recommends men and women eat a healthy diet to lower their blood pressure. Many experts today recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH diet, as it was specifically created to lower a person’s blood pressure. This diet contains whole grains, legumes, seeds, lean meats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. They help lower blood pressure because they contain lots of fiber and are low in cholesterol, sodium, and saturated fat. Following this diet, people lower their systolic blood pressure by approximately 8 mm Hg and their diastolic blood pressure by about 4 mm Hg. The systolic blood pressure is the top number while the diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number medical professionals refer to when speaking of blood pressure. 

Cholesterol 

High cholesterol levels increase a person’s risk of heart disease and death. Genetics play a role in a person’s cholesterol level but only serve as part of the equation. Individuals who are overweight, those who don’t exercise, and men and women who consume excessive amounts of alcohol have higher cholesterol levels. The same holds for those with type 2 diabetes. A person can reduce their cholesterol level by replacing saturated fat in their diet with polyunsaturated fat. In addition, they should consume foods high in omega-3 fatty acids. This includes trout, tuna, herring, mackerel, and salmon.

Many people with high cholesterol benefit greatly from following the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to lower cholesterol levels while reducing a person’s risk of heart disease. In this diet, olive oil serves as the primary dietary fat source. The diet emphasizes the consumption of nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Sweets and red meat should rarely be consumed by a person following the Mediterranean diet. Men and women should talk to their doctor to learn about what diet they should follow as part of their coronary artery disease treatment.

Diabetes

Any person suffering from diabetes has a higher risk of heart disease. Men and women who have been diagnosed with prediabetes need to lose weight to reduce their risk of the disease progressing to diabetes. Losing seven percent of their body weight and engaging in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity helps to stop this progression. Doctors recommend the individual follow a healthy diet, such as the two mentioned above, in addition to weight loss and physical activity.  However, individuals with diabetes and prediabetes aren’t the only ones who need to exercise. 

Exercise

The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommends all adults between the ages of 18 and 64 get a minimum of 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. They may swim, bike, run, walk briskly, or engage in any activity that gets their heart rate up to the desired level. However, any exercise is of benefit. Research shows a person who takes 4,400 steps each day lowers their risk of death when compared to men and women who only walk 2,700 steps a day. 

Smoking

Smoking is bad for a person’s health in many ways. A person who smokes has a much higher risk of heart disease than those who have never smoked. Furthermore, their risk of death is two to three times higher. The more cigarettes a person smokes, the higher their risk. Smoking cessation medications benefit men and women who struggle to kick this habit and are safe to use. 

Make lifestyle changes today and see improvements to your health. If you struggle to lower your risk of heart disease, talk to your cardiologist. They’ll help you come up with a plan that works for your unique situation. 

About Carolina Cardiology Associates: 

Carolina Cardiology Associates consists of a group of skilled, experienced, and dedicated doctors who specialize in cardiovascular health technology. The doctors benefit from a support staff committed to improving the health of their patients. 

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.