Coronary heart disease(CHD) kills 1 in 6 men and 1 in 10 women every year. It is a disease in which plaques of fats start depositing within coronary arteries. These coronary arteries are the main vessels that supply oxygen rich blood to the cardiac muscles. These plaques build up over many years and start coalescing to form large, hardened plaques that destroy the arterial wall and narrow the lumen. The plaques inflame the blood vessels, raising the risk of blood clots. This hampers the bloodstream to the heart muscles.
Over time CHDs can weaken the heart muscles leading to heart failure, cardiac tamponade or arrhythmias. Most of the causes of CHD are preventable or self manageable. Since, there is no cure to the disease, timely prevention is the key to protecting your heart health.
Lifestyle modifications and easy preventive measures can help to prevent or slow the progression of coronary artery disease.
- Stop smoking: Smoking is a major risk factor for CHD. The nicotine in cigarettes constricts the blood vessels. Thus, increasing the afterload of the heart, it forces the heart to work harder. The carbon monoxide reduces oxygen saturation of the blood and damages the vessel lining. If you quit smoking, you will be able to boost your cardiac health.
- Keep your blood pressure under control: After the age of 40, you should check your blood pressure more frequently. Ideal levels lie below 120/80 mm Hg. Higher blood pressure is associated with higher risk of heart diseases.
- Reduce cholesterol: Poor lipid profile promotes plaque formation and increases risk of CAD. After the 20s, get your cholesterol checked every five years. Your physician may recommend more frequent checkups if the values aren’t within normal ranges. Target an LDL level below 100mg/dL for a healthy heart.
- Diabetic? Keep it under check: If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar under tight control can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- Get moving: Exercise helps maintaining a healthy weight and tune down high blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol- potential risk factors. It also helps to control inflammatory processes. 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise daily reduces the risk of heart diseases.
- Turn to healthy foods: Organic foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes and cereals are low in saturated fat, sodium as well as cholesterol. Adding fish to your meal is very beneficial. This kind of diet is heart healthy and will prolong your cardiac longevity.
- Manage stress: Stress activates sympathetic system, which puts the cardiovascular system under pressure. Reduce stress through activites, such as muscle relaxation, meditation, yoga and deep breathing.
How do you treat CHD?
CHD can be managed through medications and surgery to keep it under control and prevent it from damaging the heart.
- Beta-blockers: These are first line drugs that are used to keep the blood pressure under tight control. Recommended range lies below 140/90 mm Hg. In contraindicated cases, calcium channel blockers can be used in its place.
- Statins: Statins like atorvastatin reduce cholesterol, a primary risk factor of coronary diseases.
- Nitroglycerin is used to dilate the constricted blood vessels and re-establish the blood flow.
- Antiplatelet drugs: These include aspirin and clopidogrel. They help reduce cardiovascular events, especially in patients of myocardial infarction. Clopidogrel has better efficacy than aspirin.
Revascularization in acute coronary disease has a provem benefit of reducing mortality. Coronary artery bypass grafts have an edge over percutaneous coronary interventions if two or more coronary arteries are involved.