Coronary Heart Disease
A coronary heart disease occurs when certain factors cause your coronary arteries to become diseased or damaged. The coronary arteries are the main blood vessels that supply blood, oxygen and important nutrients to your heart. Coronary Heart Disease can also be referred to by other names, such as Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), Ischemic Heart Disease (IHD) & Arteriosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease (ACVD). This disease is the result of atherosclerosis, which can be described as the buildup of fatty deposits, within the coronary arteries. When the accumulation of plaque in the arteries, increases, your heart receives a lower amount of blood. This diminished blood supply leads to several health problems, which could include chest pain, shortness of breath or perhaps even a heart attack.
Heart diseases are a lot more common in older people, as compared to those who are younger. In fact, as you age, your risks of suffering from a coronary heart disease increase considerably. Both men and women can face heart problems, but studies indicate that they are more common in men, as compared to women. Some of the other factors that increase the risks of coronary heart disease in men and women are a family history of heart problems, obesity, following a diet that is high in fat or cholesterol, leading a sedentary lifestyle, being under excess stress and engaging in unhealthy practices like smoking. You are also at a very high risk of developing heart problems if you already suffer from medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Heart diseases are the prime cause of death in the United States. In most instances, coronary heart diseases take decades to develop and therefore go unnoticed, until the affected person actually suffers from a heart attack. Of course, there are many individuals who realize that they are at a very high risk of heart problems, when they go through a routine checkup or if they undergo medical tests for other health conditions. This is probably why most health care providers advise people to go in for regular medical checkups after the age of 35.
Once you are diagnosed with a heart disease, the condition does not just go away. You need to undergo treatment, to prevent it from getting worse. At the same time you will also be advised to incorporate certain lifestyle and dietary adjustments, to minimize the risks of heart attacks. If left unchecked an untreated, this condition can lead to severe health problems, some of which include arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), angina (chest pain), heart failure, or even heart attack. The complications that could arise from coronary heart disease are severe and could also be fatal. Therefore, it is absolutely essential for you to consult your doctor, if you notice any of the symptoms of coronary heart disease.
Symptoms of Coronary Heart Disease
During any physical activity, your heart beats faster and harder than normal. However, with narrowed arteries, it still receives a less than adequate supply of oxygenated blood. In the initial stages, the restricted blood flow to the heart may not trigger off any noticeable symptoms. However, as the buildup of plaque in the arteries increases, you may begin to see the signs and symptoms for coronary heart disease, which include:
- Severe pain in the chest area, which may be fleeting or sharp. Pain in the back, abdomen and left arm are also an indication of heart problems. At times, it may not necessarily be pain that you notice; you may just feel some amount of tightness or pressure in the chest. Moreover, this sensation is usually triggered off by emotional or physical stress. Once you stop the activity that was causing the problem, the feeling of tightness usually disappears.
- Breathing problems, especially shortness of breath, accompanied by extreme weakness or tiredness.
- Heart attack, in case the artery gets totally blocked by the buildup of plaque. This is characterized by crushing pressure in the left side of the chest area, perspiring, shortness of breath, pain in the left arm, nausea and severe backache.
In case you notice any of the signs of a heart attack or have severe pain in the chest, you need to inform someone, preferably your doctor, about it without wasting a single minute. Driving in this condition is extremely dangerous and therefore should be strictly avoided. Instead call emergency services and you may be able to get help at your doorstep.
Causes of Coronary Heart Disease
The cause for a coronary heart disease is blockage in the arteries. It is believed that a heart disease begins with some amount of damage or even an injury in the inner part of the artery. It is not necessary that this damage or injury affects you in your old age. In fact, most people inflict a significant amount of damage to their arteries when they are much younger. Given below are some of the common factors that have been known to trigger off coronary heart diseases:
- Heredity or genetics, where one or both parents suffer from heart diseases and problems.
- Following a diet that is very high in saturated fats and bad cholesterol
- Engaging in habits like cigarette smoking or the use of illegal drugs
- Undergoing radiation therapy in the chest area as a part of cancer treatment
- Suffering from preexisting medical conditions, like high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes
- Having a very hectic lifestyle or being under a significant amount of stress
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle, where you do not even get around 30 to 40 minutes of physical exercise during the day.
- Being obese or even severely overweight, as your risks of heart problems go up considerably, in case you have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 30.
Most of the causes and risk factors for coronary heart disease are connected to each other. For example, you may have high blood pressure and diabetes due to obesity or a hectic lifestyle, which in turn leads to heart problems. Therefore, it is best to make sure that you do not leave any health problem unchecked.
Remedies for Coronary Heart Disease
While there are certain drug recommended for coronary heart disease, lifestyle changes play a vital factor in the management of the condition too. Given below are some of the common lifestyle adjustments that can reduce the risks of a heart attack:
- Quit unhealthy practices like smoking, as nicotine constricts the blood vessels. This puts an additional amount of pressure on your heart, causing it to work harder. Moreover, carbon monoxide reduces the levels of oxygen in the blood and causes damage to the lining of the blood vessels. One of the most effective ways of reducing the risks of heart diseases is to quit the habit of smoking.
- Keep a tab on your blood pressure, but getting it checked every year. In case your blood pressure is high, you need to monitor it more closely and get it checked more often.
- Monitor the levels of cholesterol in your body and start doing so at a young age. Ideally, you should go in for your first cholesterol checkup when you are around 20 and if it is normal, then you can get it checked once every 5 years or so. However, if the tests indicate that your cholesterol levels are not within the normal range, your doctor may ask you to go in for frequent checkups.
- Exercising is one of the most important features of a healthy lifestyle as it reduces the risks of many health problems, which includes heart diseases. People who are elderly, are suffering from any preexisting medical condition or have limited mobility should also make it a point to check with their doctors for the right exercises. It is important for you to exercise for at least half an hour a day, five days a week.
- Maintain a healthy weight, by following a low-fat but nutritious diet at all times. Foods like fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains are all low in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol, but are packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrients. However, the method in which these foods are cooked is very important. Fried food should be strictly avoided as the clog the arteries further. It is best to opt for cooking methods such as boiling, grilling, baking, steaming, roasting and so on.
- Stress can have an adverse effect on several aspects of your health, which increases the risks of heart diseases. Practice a few stress relieving techniques like deep breathing, meditation and muscle relaxation to reduce your risks of heart problems.
Diet for Coronary Heart Disease
Contrary to what many people believe the only objective of a diet for coronary heart disease is not only restriction of cholesterol. Any dietary adjustment which enhances other metabolic pathways is also beneficial for heart disease. However, changing dietary habits is a challenge for people of most ages. Fortunately a healthy heart diet does not necessarily stop you from eating your favorite foods. However, it is important that you find healthy ways of preparing such foods, so that they amount of fat and cholesterol you consume is restricted. Given blow are a few dietary recommendations for coronary heart disease:
- Reduce your intake of unhealthy fats and cholesterol: The most vital step in following a heart-healthy diet is restricting your intake of saturated fats, which in turn reduces cholesterol levels and cuts the risks of suffering a heart attack. Therefore, you should avoid foods items like shortening, butter, margarine, chips, cookie and crackers. Instead, use olive oil and eat fruit and vegetables to achieve your health targets.
- Choose low-fat high-protein foods: While lean meats, fish, poultry and a few dairy products are good sources of protein, it is essential to prepare them in a way that cut down the fat. Therefore opt for skim milk instead of full-cream milk; prepare skinless chicken by baking or grilling, instead of frying it. Other food items high in protein and low in cholesterol include legumes and soybean.
- Eat more fruit and vegetables: Fresh fruits and vegetables are excellent in dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. At the same time, they are also low in fat and calories. Consuming a higher amount of these foods is very helpful in reducing the risks of cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, if you eat a larger quantity of fruits and veggies you can cut down on the consumption of other foods that are high in fat, such as meat, cheese, bread, and so on. However, canned fruit, frozen fruit with sugar and fried vegetables are high in fat and should be avoided.
- Increase you intake of whole grains: Most varieties of whole grains are high in fiber, which is good for your digestive system and regulates your blood pressure. At the same time, it also has a positive effect on the health of your heart. Flaxseed is one of the best ways of adding whole grains to your diet. However, you need to avoid products made from white flour, as they are high in fat.
- Limit the amount of salt in your diet: Salt contributes towards high blood pressure, which in turn increases the risks of heart diseases. Decreasing the quantity of salt you add to your food is the first step in preventing heart problems. To make up for the lack of adequate salt, you can use herbs or other healthy spices.
- Control your portions: Talk to your doctor and decide in advance, how much food is required by your body during the day. This step will help you avoid overeating. During a meal, you should eat till you are not hungry, do not stuff yourself.
Suggestion for Coronary Heart Disease
A healthy heart is the key to a long and healthy life and therefore, it is absolutely essential that you take good care of it. It is absolutely essential that you have a doctor monitor the condition of your heart carefully at all times. In case the lifestyle and dietary changes do not bring about the desired results, you may need to undergo a surgery for this purpose.
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Coronary Heart Disease - Frequently asked questions