Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is a result of the buildup of fatty plaque substances (atherosclerosis) on the inner walls of coronary arteries (arteries of the heart muscle itself). This plaque restricts the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. CAD and cardiovascular disease (CVD) are not the same. CAD is a type of CVD. CAD is the leading cause of death around the world, (about 13.2% in 2012,) including about 380,000 Americans every year.
Major Risk Factors for CAD include the following:
• Elevated blood cholesterol levels. Optimal levels are LDL levels less than 100, HDL levels greater than 60 and total cholesterol level below 200.
• Hypertension. The constant force of elevated blood pressure against the heart blood vessels. High readings are systolic 140 or higher or diastolic 90 or higher over days of repeated measurements. Children can also develop high blood pressure, especially if they are overweight or obese.
• Smoking. Smoking damages the lining of blood vessels, increasing the risk of plaque buildup. Nicotine also causes the heart rate to accelerate, leading to hypertension with long-term use.
• Pre-diabetes and diabetes. Pre-diabetes and diabetes are associated with obesity, lack of exercise, and poor dietary choices.
• Overweight and obesity. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high triglycerides are all correlated with being overweight and/or obese, which is why these conditions are considered CAD risk factors.
• Genetics. Family history of heart disease can predispose a person to CAD. However, just because CAD runs in a family, it is not certain that others will get it, because much depends on lifestyle and other CAD risk factors.
• Stress. Anxiety and stress may trigger arteries to tighten, constricting blood flow and leading to hypertension.
• Triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are blood fats and this may especially be a problem for women.
• Age. Most people have plaque buildup by the time they are in their 70s. In men, the risk increases after age 45, and women after age 55.
• Gender. Some CAD risk factors cause different problems in men and women. Diabetes in women raises risk of CAD more than in men.
• Unhealthy diet. Eating habits will directly affect CAD. Limit foods that are high in trans-fat (deep fried and processed foods), cholesterol (some meats, dairy products, commercially baked foods), and saturated fats (deep fried, dairy products, processed foods) because they have been shown to raised LDL cholesterol levels. Monitor salt intake, because high salt foods can elevate blood pressure. Added sugars can increase calories, leading to overweight and obesity. Limit alcohol consumption, because too much alcohol raises blood pressure and adds extra calories to the diet.
• Physical inactivity. According to the National Institute of Health, inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop CAD as those who are active. Physical inactivity is associated with other CAD risk factors such as high blood pressure, high LDL, diabetes, overweight, and obesity.
For more information about CAD and your risks, talk to your doctor. If you are interested in starting an exercise program, talk to a personal trainer about options. Contact Janet Hunt at 256-614-3530.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.