Reducing Your Risk of Coronary Artery Disease

Each year more than 600,000 people die from heart disease, mostly from coronary artery disease or CAD—the most common type of heart disease. Frequently, CAD sufferers are not aware they have it until they have a heart attack.

“Coronary artery disease is often a silent killer,” said Paula Harwood, RN-BC, CCRP, BSN, manager, Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation. “It’s important to know what it is and to speak with your doctor about screening if you’re at risk.”

What is CAD?

CAD is caused by plaque buildup on the walls of the arteries. Coronary arteries supply blood to the heart and throughout the body. Plaque, which is made of cholesterol and other substances, can build up over time, causing a partial or total blockage of blood flow. This blockage is also known as atherosclerosis. When plaque builds up, the most common symptom is angina (chest pain or discomfort). Without treatment, CAD can weaken the heart and lead to heart failure.

How can you reduce your risk?

It is important to reduce your risk of CAD and prevent worsening heart disease. Some ways that you can do that include:

  1. Live a healthier lifestyle. Eat a healthy, nutritious diet with a balanced plate, increase physical activity and quit smoking.
  2. Take medications as directed. If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or other medical problems, make sure that you take the medications prescribed by your doctor. If you are concerned that you may need treatment for one of these problems, speak with your primary care provider.
  3. Speak with your doctor about cardiac screening. Heart screenings and procedures can help to identify problem arteries. A heart screening can help your primary care provider or cardiologist watch potential problems and plan ahead for cardiac interventions.

“Coronary artery disease is a combination of genetics and behaviors,” said Harwood. “While you cannot change your family history, you can change your lifestyle to reduce your risk.”

Are you concerned about coronary artery disease?

Speak with your primary care provider about your heart health, or contact Memorial Heart & Vascular Services if you are not sure where to start.

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