How Serious Is Coronary Artery Disease?

How Serious Is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a significant threat, not only to your daily health and well-being, but also to your life.

How serious is it? CAD, the most common type of heart disease, is responsible for one in four deaths and is the top cause of death in the United States.

Despite being the leading cause of death, CAD is largely preventable and treatable, especially if it’s diagnosed at an early stage.

At Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute, Dr. Laura Fernandes offers comprehensive care for CAD, teaching patients lifestyle changes to prevent the condition and providing the full range of treatment from medications to advanced interventional procedures.

How CAD develops

CAD develops when cholesterol and other substances build up in the arteries carrying oxygen-rich blood to your heart. Without treatment, the fatty plaque (atherosclerosis) keeps enlarging and hardening the artery wall. 

Atherosclerosis also causes chronic inflammation in the artery. The inflammation magnifies the disease, contributing to arterial damage while reducing substances needed to support healthy arteries.

Eventually, the plaque interferes with the blood flow to your heart. Or, the plaque may break apart, creating pieces that stop circulation. In both cases, you have a heart attack.

Your risk of developing CAD depends on two variables: genetics and lifestyle choices. You have a good chance of preventing the disease (despite your genetics) by making lifestyle modifications and getting a heart-health screening.

Genetic factors

Though CAD tends to run in families, your inherited genetics don’t always predict your fate. Your lifestyle choices directly influence your genes, modifying their behavior by turning some activities on or off.

Lifestyle factors

Atherosclerosis causes CAD, but other chronic health conditions cause atherosclerosis. The underlying conditions — high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity — develop over years of following an unhealthy lifestyle.

The lifestyle choices influencing your risk for atherosclerosis and CAD include diet, exercise, stress, smoking, and weight.

Diet

Foods and beverages either fight inflammation or contribute to it. (Inflammation contributes to CAD.) The calories you consume support a healthy weight or lead to weight gain.

Your diet may provide crucial nutrients or deprive your heart and blood vessels of the vitamins and minerals needed to function and thrive.

In many cases, the average diet delivers an excessive amount of substances like sugar and salt that contribute to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, CAD, and other heart diseases.

Exercise

Exercise strengthens your heart muscles, keeping it healthy and improving its ability to pump blood and deliver oxygen. Following a regular exercise regimen lowers your blood pressure and reduces your risk of CAD. 

Staying active also reduces blood sugar and lowers bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol. You gain many other heart-healthy benefits when you exercise, from losing weight to easing stress and anxiety.

Stress

Stress contributes to inflammation and is especially bad for your heart because it boosts your blood pressure and heart rate.

Smoking

Smoking is hazardous for your heart and coronary arteries. The chemicals you inhale increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis and accelerate damage in the arteries.

Weight

Your risk for CAD increases in tandem with every pound you gain. While your overall weight affects your heart health, you’re more likely to have high blood pressure and atherosclerosis if the excess fat accumulates in your abdomen.

Seek early screening

If you’re worried because you have a family history of heart disease, or you have any of the risk factors mentioned here, we recommend scheduling a heart-health screening.

During your screening, we review your medical history, evaluate your risk factors, and run basic tests to determine your current heart health. Then, we recommend a customized plan to improve your health and prevent heart disease.

Call the office or book online today if you have questions or want to schedule a heart checkup.

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