By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Coronary artery disease is caused by the formation of atheromatous plaques in the lining of the coronary arteries. These plaques obstruct the blood flow that supplies the muscles of the heart with oxygen and vital nutrients.
Coronary artery disease raises the risk of a person developing chest pain called angina and eventually myocardial infarction or heart attack. While some of the risk factors for coronary artery disease are non-modifiable such as older age, male gender and genetic predisposition, there are several lifestyle factors that can be changed or modified to reduce the risk for the condition. Examples of these factors include high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, inactivity and high blood pressure.
Some examples of preventive measures people can take to modify these risk factors include:
Decreasing blood cholesterol levels – Several classes of medications are available that reduce the blood cholesterol levels. Statins are one of the most commonly prescribed medications for high cholesterol.
- Weight loss – Obese and overweight individuals can reduce their weight and then maintain a healthy body weight.
- Reducing high blood pressure – There are several classes of antihypertensive medications available for bringing high blood pressure under control.
- Healthy diet – A healthy diet is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, whole grains and contains plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (five portions a day). The diet should contain low levels of saturated fats, red meat and processed sugars and salt intake should not exceed six grams a day. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids and unsaturated fatty acids should be included such as nuts and seeds, oily fish, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, olive oil, vegetable oils and avocados.
- Stress should be avoided
- A sedentary lifestyle should be modified to include regular exercise.
- Diabetes control – Raised blood sugar levels should be carefully monitored and brought under control using lifestyle changes or medication if necessary.
- Antiplatelet agents – The use of antiplatelet agents such as aspirin and/or clopidogrel have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks and other consequences of coronary heart disease.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc