Coronary Heart Disease
The Number 1 Killer in America
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is usually caused by a condition called atherosclerosis, which occurs when fatty material and a substance called plaque builds up on the walls of your arteries causing them to narrow.
As the coronary arteries narrow, blood flow to the heart can slow down or stop, causing chest pain, shortness of breath, heart attack, and other symptoms.
CHD is the leading cause of death in the United States for men, and also for women over 65 years of age. American women are 4 to 6 times more likely to die of CHD than breast cancer and after age 65 heart problems kill more women than all cancers combined.
Many factors can increase your risk for CHD, including:
Coronary heart disease symptoms may be very noticeable, but sometimes you can have the disease without any noticeable symptoms.
Chest pain or discomfort (angina) is the most common and sometimes over looked symptom. Two main types of chest pain:
- Atypical chest pain: Often sharp and can come and go. Can be felt on the left side of the chest, abdomen, back, or arms. Atypical chest pain is more common in women.Typical chest pain: Can feel heavy or like someone is squeezing you. You feel it under your breast bone and the pain usually occurs with activity or emotion and goes away with rest or a medicine called nitroglycerin.
Other symptoms include shortness of breath and heart attack. In some cases, the first sign of CHD is a heart attack.
If ever in doubt, with or without symptoms, seek out medical advice from a qualified medical practitioner as your doctor can run a number of test to diagnosis your medical condition and provide a treatment plan specific to your needs.
Protect Yourself from
Coronary Heart Disease
Take a moment and look at your lifestyle, family history and your general health. With this information, you and your family doctor can assess your risk and make a plan to avoid potential problems.
Although you can't do much about your family history or your age, you can make some lifestyle changes to avoid many of the risk factors, such as:
- Don't smoke. Smoking is a major risk factor for men and women. More than half of the heart attacks in women under 50 are related to smoking and if you stop, you can lower your risk by one third within 2 years.
- Control your blood pressure. Treating high blood pressure can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. Losing weight, regular exercise, reducing salt intake, and eating a healthy diet are all ways to help control high blood pressure.
- Control your cholesterol level. Diet is a key ingredient to lowering high cholesterol along with regular exercise. However, some people may need to take medicine in addition to lower levels. Know your cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels.
- Weight management. Extra weight puts strain on your heart and arteries. Obesity can raise your triglyceride levels and exercise and a low-fat diet can lower your triglycerides and help you lose weight.
- Exercise regularly. Remember, your heart is a muscle and it needs regular exercise to stay in shape. Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, jogging, or biking, gives your heart the best workout.
- Eat a low-fat diet. Keep fat calories to 30% or less of the total calories you eat during a day and avoid saturated fat. Read the food labels. Increase your consumption of vegetables, fresh fruits, low-fat milk and other dairy products, grains, fish and poultry.
- Take care of your diabetes. If you have diabetes, regular exercise, weight control, a low-fat diet and regular doctor visits are important.
- Be aware of chest pain. Be sure to contact your doctor immediately if you suffer from pain in your chest, shoulder, arms, neck or jaw. Also notify your doctor it you experience shortness of breath or nausea that comes on quickly, every second may count.
- Reduce stress. Try some relaxation or meditation techniques.
- Alcohol. Limit the amount of alcohol you consume
Coronary heart disease treatment depends on severity of the disease and your symptoms.
Doctors have a wide choice of treatment methods available to choose from in medication and with percutaneous coronary interventions. Once armed with all the facts, your doctor can prescribe a specific treatment plan personalized for your well-being.
Some medications used to treat Coronary heart disease include:
- ACE inhibitors to lower blood pressure
- Blood thinners (antiplatelet drugs) to reduce risk of blood clots
- Beta-blockers to lower heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen used by the heart
- calcium channel blockers to relax arteries, lowering blood pressure and reducing strain on the heart
- Diuretics to lower blood pressure
- Nitrates (such as nitroglycerin) to stop chest pain and improve blood supply to the heart
- Statins to lower cholesterol
Percutaneous coronary interventions (PCIs) are procedures to treat and diagnose CHD, types include:
- Angioplasty and stenting
- Coronary atherectomy
- Coronary radiation implant or coronary brachytherapy
If you have any of the risk factors for coronary heart disease, set up an appointment with your doctor to discuss prevention and possible treatment. If you have angina, shortness of breath, or symptoms of a heart attack, immediately contact your health care provider, call the local emergency number, or have someone drive you to the emergency room.
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