Coronary artery disease, CAD for short, is narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to your heart. It is a slow progressing disease marked by diminished blood flow. And it is the most common form of heart disease.
Coronary artery disease may cause you warning symptoms of angina and shortness of breath as your heart muscle receives less and less blood. However, a heart attack may furnish the only indication that your heart’s artery is blocked. And for many this symptom is too late, as it’s the leading cause of death in the U.S.
For most, CAD can be prevented by adhering to a healthy lifestyle. The two most important components in prevention are consuming a nutrient rich diet and regular aerobic physical activity. Why these two healthy lifestyle ingredients are vital stems from how coronary artery disease develops.
Coronary artery disease essentially starts with the build up of fatty deposits, aka plaque, consisting of cholesterol and other cellular waste in a relatively tiny artery feeding your heart. This is what’s known a atherosclerosis.
If any of these plaque sites rupture, then blood platelets clump there in an effort to do artery repair. This blood clotting, aka thrombosis, and plaque accumulation is what’s blocking your heart’s artery. Which in turn, causes blood flow restriction.
Why a healthy diet and exercise are so crucial for preventing all this heart blockage from happening has to do with its underlying causes. Plaque buildup is believed to accumulate at vessel damage sites. Some of the key factors causing or contributing to this damage are:
Healthy lifestyle CAD prevention via diet and exercise changes help keep these heart vessel damage causes under control. In addition, they’ll keep your arteries strong, elastic and smooth, which allows for highly efficient blood flow.
As the fatty deposits and clumping continue to accumulate, you may, or may not, experience angina and shortness of breath symptoms. Your chest pain and dyspnea are typically more pronounced during periods of physical or emotional stress because your heart can’t pump enough blood around to the rest of you.
Other CAD symptoms you may notice include:
- extreme fatigue with exertion
- fleeting, sharp abdomen, back or arm pain
- chest heaviness, squeezing, pressure or burning sensation
Sometimes, healthy lifestyle changes are not enough to recover from the extent of your coronary artery disease. So when necessary, these drugs might be prescribed:
- ACE inhibitors ~ decrease blood pressure
- aspirin, blood thinners ~ reduces tendency of blood to clot
- beta blockers ~ slow heart rate & decreases blood pressure
- nitroglycerin ~ controls angina by opening up coronary arteries
- cholesterol medications ~ statins, niacin, fibrates, bile acid sequestrants
- calcium channel blockers ~ relax surrounding coronary artery muscles causing them to open, controls high blood pressure
And finally, a more aggressive treatment may be required to get blood flow going to your heart to relieve your angina and shortness of breath symptoms, like angioplasty, stent placement or coronary artery bypass surgery.
Leading a healthy lifestyle not only prevents or slows coronary artery disease progression, but this lifestyle option contributes positively to your overall health. Get yourself moving and downing loads of plant based food.