By Michael Okubena
Coronary artery disease (CAD) or coronary heart disease (CHD) is caused due to accumulation of atheromatous plaque within the walls of arteries that supply fresh oxygenated blood to the heart. If the coronary arteries are blocked, the heart will strive for oxygenated blood and if this request is not met, it may lead to chest pain (Angina pectoris) or a heart attack. Coronary heart disease is the most common underlying cause of cardiovascular disability and death. The common risk factors associated with this disease are hypertension, cigarette smoking, elevated blood lipids, a high fat diet, physical inactivity, obesity, diabetes and stress.
The arteries play an essential role in carrying vital nutrients and oxygenated blood to the heart. Over the period of time these arteries become less elastic and are prone to hardening due to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is basically a buildup of fatty deposits called as plaque inside the walls of arteries and it is the root cause of coronary heart disease. These fatty deposits make the arteries narrow and restrict the normal blood flow to the heart, making the heart deprived of rich oxygenated blood and nutrients. Sometimes a blood clot may form blocking a coronary artery (coronary thrombosis) which may lead to a severe heart attack. Researchers have detected number of micro-organism that may be responsible for heart diseases. Inflammation in the coronary arteries caused due to Helicobacter pylori bacteria can lead to atherosclerosis.
Coronary artery disease affects nearly 13 million Americans and it is the leading cause of death of men and women in the United States. This disease is treatable if diagnosed at early stage or it may prove to be very fatal. Including a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and stopping tobacco use are some of the preventive measures to avoid this deadly disease. In severe cases coronary artery bypass surgery is required as it helps to create an alternate route for blood to the heart.
Coronary Heart Disease Causes
Atherosclerosis is one of the primary causes of coronary heart disease which leads to narrowing and hardening of the arteries. It is the buildup of fatty deposits called as plaque inside the arteries which carry fresh oxygenated blood to the heart. These fatty deposits make the arteries narrow which obstruct the normal flow of the blood and therefore restrict the supply of oxygen to the heart muscles. Due to atherosclerosis the artery may also become less elastic, which is called as “hardening of the arteries”. The hardening of the arteries causes an increase in resistance to blood flow, and therefore an increase in blood pressure. Researchers have detected number of micro-organism that may be responsible for heart diseases. Inflammation in the coronary arteries caused due to Helicobacter pylori bacteria can lead to atherosclerosis.
High cholesterol levels cause the coronary arteries to narrow due to accumulation of plaque on the walls of the arteries. The arteries are also completely blocked due to high level of cholesterol. Cholesterol-rich food increases the level of bad cholesterol or low density lipoprotein (LDL), which is deposited on the artery walls which leads to atherosclerosis. These LDL molecules contain more cholesterol and does not aid in the transportation of cholesterol out of the body, instead it deposits cholesterol onto the vessel walls. High density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol plays a vital role in removing cholesterol out of the body by transporting it to the liver. Low HDL levels can lead to severe cardiovascular disorder.
Smoking and Alcohol
>Several studies have indicated that high consumption of alcohol is one of the major causes of coronary heart disease as it can raise blood pressure. Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by 70%. It also increases the risk of sudden death due to coronary heart disease. Carbon monoxide contained in the smoke can clump the platelets in the blood, which makes the blood sticky and thus block coronary arteries. The chances of having a severe heart attack due to CHD are seen quite often among habitual smokers.
Stress, whether physical or emotional, increases the heart’s workload, making it beat faster than normal, raising blood pressure. All this results in the heart needing more oxygen and if the coronary arteries are blocked, this request cannot be met, leading to Angina pectoris or a heart attack.
Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors
Coronary artery disease compromises the pumping ability of the heart, cause failure of the valve or result in narrowing or hardening of the arteries. The injury or failure of the cardiovascular system will affect the peripheral tissues that depend on the delivery of nutrientsand the removal of wastes through the blood vascular system. Some of the major risk factors affecting coronary heart disease are described below:
Non controllable risk factors
Aging causes the coronary arteries to become stiff and hard if proper diet or lifestyle is not maintained. Generally people above 65 yrs are mostly affected by coronary artery disease. Old age is one of the major risk factors which facilitate easy accumulation of plaque on the walls of the arteries, which make it hard and narrow.
Men are affected about four times as frequently as women and tend to have attacks earlier in life. The risk for coronary heart disease increases for menopausal women. But the risk factors for men are always greater than women.
Generally, coronary heart disease affects children born with parents having heart disease. They tend to show the symptoms of this disease later on in life. According to several studies it has been proved that family history of heart diseases often is associated with coronary heart diseases, if parents of the child develop it before the age of 50.
African Americans, native Hawaiians, Mexicans and Asians have higher rates of obesity and diabetes and thus are at a higher risk of developing coronary heart diseases.
Controllable risk factors
It is a disease, in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin which causes glucose level in the blood to increase, instead of being used for energy. People with diabetes are two or four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease due to poorly controlled blood sugars. Coronary artery disease is the major cause of mortality in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Obesity and sedentary lifestyle
People with sedentary lifestyle, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and hypercholesterolemia run a greater risk of developing coronary heart disease. High cholesterol levels also cause the coronary arteries to narrow due to accumulation of plaque on the walls of the arteries. If arteries are completely blocked it can lead to a massive heart attack.
Fibrogen and lipoprotein
High level of fibrogen and lipoprotein A encourage the formation of blood clots and are responsible for heart attack and formation of atheroma plaque.
High Blood pressure
High blood pressure is the major risk factor for coronary heart disease which is responsible for severe stroke and heart attack. When the force of blood passing through blood vessels is above normal then it leads to hypertension or high blood pressure. Many people fail to recognize the symptoms of hypertension and consistent high blood pressure can prove to be very fatal. Smoking, stress, obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity are the major factors responsible for high blood pressure or hypertension. High blood pressure can be controlled by avoiding all the factors mentioned above.
High blood cholesterol
High cholesterol levels due to LDL (low density lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol can increase the risk of formation of plaque and atherosclerosis. If HDL (high density lipoprotein) is low it can increase bad cholesterol level in the blood. High density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol plays a vital role in removing cholesterol out of the body by transporting it to the liver. Low HDL levels can lead to severe cardiovascular disorder.
Researchers have detected number of micro-organism that may be responsible for heart diseases. Inflammation in the coronary arteries caused due to Helicobacter pylori bacteria can lead to atherosclerosis.
Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by 70%. It also increases the risk of sudden death due to coronary heart disease. Carbon monoxide contained in the smoke can clump the platelets in the blood, which makes the blood sticky and thus block coronary arteries. The chances of having a severe heart attack due to CHD are seen quite often among habitual smokers.
Coronary Heart Disease Symptoms
The symptoms associated with coronary heart disease are Chest pain or angina, weakness, dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath especially during any physical activity. Angina pectoris is the primary symptom of coronary heart disease. It is actually mild pain in the chest and may spread to the arms, jaws, back or stomach. Angina is generally triggered after heavy physical activity or after a stress situation. In severe cases symptoms may also include a heart attack. Immediate action should be taken when a person is having an attack otherwise it would prove to be very fatal. In some cases the heart may become too weak to pump blood around the body and eventually it leads to heart failure. In this case if proper action is not taken, they person may die within five minutes.
Coronary Heart Disease Prevention
Preventive measures should be adopted during childhood as it helps to prevent CVD later on in life. The main cause of heart attacks due to CVD between ages of forty to sixty is primarily due to lifestyle factors. Having a regular exercise regimen increases energy, reduces stress and strengthens the bones. It gives a feeling of wellbeing by producing endorphins, which is a type of natural morphine synthesized in the body.
Physical activity is important for reducing blood pressure and releasing pent-up energy. Physical activity and regular and moderate exercise improves blood circulation, including blood supply to the heart, reducing the risk of heart attack.
A healthy, well balanced, nutritious diet is one of the keys towards maintaining a healthy heart. Fruits and minerals rich in vitamins and low calories and fat should be included in the daily dietary intake. They help protect against heart conditions. Cholesterol levels can be maintained by including soluble fibers such as cereals, beans, peas, lentils, citrus fruits, strawberries and apples. Insoluble fibers do not change cholesterol levels, but aid digestion. Whole meal bread, cauliflower, beetroot, prunes are classic examples of insoluble fibers. People suffering from high blood pressure should follow a low salt diet as increased salt intake pushes blood pressure higher and puts a greater strain on the heart.
Antioxidant molecules generally reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes and are widely used in dietary supplements to maintain good health. Anti-oxidants are also beneficial in preventing diseases such as cancer and coronary heart diseases. Vitamin E, selenium, carotene and gingko biloba prevent oxidation and are useful deterrents against atherosclerosis. Low levels of potassium or magnesium can cause serious heart disorders. Including bananas in the regular diet can prevent these mineral deficiencies, helping maintain a healthy regular heart beat.
Apart from physical exercise and healthy diet, mental well being is also important for a healthy heart. Meditation and relaxation techniques can calm the mind and soothe the senses. These techniques work well to overcome stress, which is one of the major factors that cause cardiac arrest.
Smoking, consumption of alcohol, unhealthy eating habits, obesity, and stress are the primary factors which lead to coronary heart diseases. Maintaining healthy weight helps control cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, and stress levels. Living a healthy and balanced lifestyle will alone help you to fight this deadly disease. Smoking cessation will benefit you on a long run and reduce the risk for having a heart attack.