Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease in the United States. It claims the lives of over 370,000 Americans each year. Coronary heart disease is caused by the buildup of plaque within coronary arteries. Coronary heart disease can lead to heart attacks.
A cure for coronary heart disease does not yet exist. But medication and lifestyle changes can help manage the condition. Monitoring cholesterol levels is one of the most effective ways to prevent a heart attack.
How Is Coronary Heart Disease Treated?
Coronary heart disease symptoms vary from person to person, so it can be difficult to diagnose. Some patients have angina. Experiencing an angina event may feel like your chest is being squeezed. Sudden disorientation and fatigue can also be indicators of angina. The onset of angina means you are at imminent risk for a heart attack. Others with coronary heart disease suffer heart attacks without any previous symptoms at all.
Coronary artery disease begins in childhood. Some risk factors, like family history, cannot be mitigated. The risk of coronary heart disease also increases with age. Other risk factors are within the patient’s power to manage or eliminate.
Quitting smoking and getting in shape can reduce your chance of suffering a heart attack. This is not surprising, as smoking’s negative impact on overall health is well documented. The connection between obesity and illness is equally understood.
Yet the number one risk factor for heart disease is high cholesterol.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by your liver. Cholesterol helps form cell membranes, hormones, and vitamin D. Cholesterol can’t travel through our bodies by itself. It relies on particles known as lipoprotein to be circulated.
High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are known as “good cholesterol.” So-called “bad cholesterol” refers to low-density lipoproteins (LDL). Not enough HDL or too much LDL can make fatty deposits build up in your arteries, leading to coronary heart disease.
What Are Symptoms of High Cholesterol?
As this Healthline article puts it, “High cholesterol typically doesn’t cause any symptoms. In most cases, it only causes emergency events.”
Bad cholesterol is caused by eating an unhealthy diet high in trans fats. Obesity, diabetes, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle increase bad cholesterol as well. If you fall into any of these categories, you likely have high cholesterol levels.
Most healthy adults require a cholesterol test only every 4 to 6 years. However, you may need to get more frequent checks if you have diabetes or a family history of heart disease. If you already know you have coronary heart disease, you should get regular checks as well.
Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol
Leading a more active lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight can help lower your cholesterol levels. Sticking to a heart-healthy diet is an effective means of reducing bad cholesterol as well.
A heart-healthy diet is high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Salt intake and alcohol should both be limited, as should foods naturally high in cholesterol. These include egg yolks, shrimp, and whole milk dairy products. Substitute cholesterol-heavy saturated fat, found in processed foods and baked goods, with healthier fats from lean meats and nuts.
Your doctor can help create the right diet plan for you. He or she may also be able to prescribe medication that helps regulate your cholesterol levels.
It's possible to live a healthy life with coronary heart disease. But doing so requires continued effort, vigilance, and working closely with a trusted doctor.
For more information on outpatient medical care, contact BASS Medical Group at (925) 350-4044.