Coronary Artery Disease

What is Coronary Artery Disease?

The heart pumps blood through a series of blood vessels called coronary arteries. These vessels can become abnormal when fatty substances like cholesterol, accumulates in the walls of the vessel, blocking blood flow through the vessel. Blood carries vital nutrients and oxygen to the heart and other organs. The heart suffers when it does not get adequate amounts of oxygen and other important nutrients leading to diminished function.

What causes you to develop coronary artery disease and what things increase your risk?

When fatty substances, such as cholesterol deposits in the inner lining of a blood vessel it causes damage. The cholesterol that deposits given enough time, can lead to narrowing the size of the blood vessel.  Cholesterol is found in foods like beef, dairy products, and eggs. Other conditions also can potentially effect cholesterol levels and thus deposition or injury to the inner lining of the blood vessel they include diabetes, high blood pressure, and tobacco smoking.

What are the major consequences of having coronary artery disease?

If there is significant narrowing of the blood vessel, then there is a decrease in the flow of blood and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients. Since the heart is not receiving adequate amounts of oxygen and other key nutrients, it cannot function normally. The most feared consequence is the development of a heart attack. Heart attacks occur when the blood traveling in blood vessels to a specific part of the heart suddenly stops. This will lead to death of the actual heart muscle. In fact, it is a leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.

What are the signs and symptoms that may indicate that you have coronary artery disease?

The most feared symptom of narrowing of the blood vessels can cause chest pain with physical activities such as walking or doing chores around the house. Other associated symptoms include back or shoulder pain, vomiting, nausea or shortness of breath.

Is there a diet that promotes heart health, limits cholesterol deposition in blood vessels and protects against developing coronary artery disease?

Yes, the goal is to follow a heart healthy diet maintaining a total cholesterol of less than 200 mg.  Food’s high in soluble fiber also is part of a healthy eating plan. They help block the digestive track from absorbing cholesterol.

A heart healthy diet should include: Whole grain cereals such as oatmeal and oat bran, fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges, pears, and prunes. If you have diabetes, you will need to watch your blood sugar and limit the amount of more sugary fruits.  Legumes such as kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and lima beans are health forms of protein. A diet rich in these items can promote cholesterol-lowering in your blood stream.

Fish is an important part of a heart healthy diet. They are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help protect the heart from blood clots and inflammation and reduce the risk for heart attack. Try to have about two fish meals every week. Fish high in omega-3 fats are salmon, tuna (canned or fresh), and mackerel.

Eat Lean Meats poultry without the skin and lean meats.

Limit processed foods limit sugary drinks, fatty or processed meats, salty foods, and other highly processed foods. Examples include pizza, bacon, hot dogs, cookies, deli meats,

Limit salt intake You also should try to limit the amount of sodium (salt) that you eat. This means choosing low-sodium and low-salt foods or “no added salt” foods. The Nutrition Facts label on food packaging shows the amount of sodium in the item.

Try to limit alcoholic drinks. Too much alcohol will raise your blood pressure and triglyceride level. (Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.) Alcohol also adds extra calories, which will cause weight gain. Women should have no more than one alcoholic drink a day.

Cholesterol and Heart Disease