Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Heart Disease: Reducing Your Risk
What is coronary heart disease?
Coronary heart disease (also
called CHD) is sometimes called coronary artery disease. A coronary artery is a
blood vessel that carries blood to your heart. Arteries are like narrow tubes. A
fatty substance called plaque can build up in your arteries, blocking or slowing
the flow of blood and oxygen through them. This can happen in any artery, but
when it happens in the coronary arteries, your heart doesn't get the blood
and oxygen it needs to work properly and you could have a heart attack.
Both men and women can get
CHD. It can be hereditary (run in your family). It might also develop as you get
older and plaque builds up in your arteries over the years. You may get CHD if
you are overweight or if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or
diabetes. Unhealthy habits -- such as smoking, eating a high-fat diet and not
exercising enough -- can also lead to CHD. Lifestyle changes like the ones
listed below can help lower your risk of CHD.
What can I do to lower my risk of
- Don't smoke. Nicotine raises your
blood pressure because it causes your body to release adrenaline, which makes
your blood vessels constrict and your heart beat faster. If you smoke, ask your
doctor to help you make a plan to quit. After 2 or 3 years of not smoking, your
risk of CHD will be as low as the risk of a person who never smoked.
- Lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is a "bad" form of cholesterol that can
build up in your arteries. Eating a healthy, low-fat diet is a good way to
start. Try to keep your daily fat calories to less than 30% of your total
calories. For adults, this means eating less than 60 grams of fat per day. Some
people may also need to take medicine to lower their LDL cholesterol.
- Control your blood pressure. If you
have high blood pressure, your doctor can suggest ways to lower it. If you're
taking BP medicine, be sure to take it just the way your doctor tells you to.
- Exercise. Regular exercise can make
your heart stronger and reduce your risk of heart disease. Exercise can also
help if you have high blood pressure. Before you start, talk to your doctor
about the right kind of exercise for you. Try to exercise 4 to 6 times a week
for at least 30 minutes each time.
- Low Dose Aspirin. Ask your doctor
about taking a low dose of aspirin each day. Aspirin helps prevent CHD, but
taking it also has some risks.
- Vitamins.Ask your doctor about
taking vitamin supplements. Some studies have shown that vitamin E may lower a
person's risk of having a heart attack. Other vitamins may also help protect