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FAQ (Health)

 Dr. George Jacob
Heart Infocenter


Coronary Heart Disease

According to National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of NIH, some 7 million Americans suffer from coronary heart disease (CHD), the most common form of heart disease. Each year, nearly 1 million Americans die of heart disease. Coronary heart disease is caused by a narrowing of the coronary arteries that feed the heart.

Many deaths caused by coronary heart disease could be prevented because coronary heart disease is related to certain aspects of lifestyle. Risk factors for coronary heart disease include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity--all of which can be controlled. Controlling risk factors remains the key to preventing illness and death from coronary heart disease.

Risk Factors For Coronary Heart Disease

Risk factors are conditions that increase your risk of developing heart disease. Some of these can be changed and some cannot. Although these factors each increase the risk of coronary heart disease, they do not describe all the causes of coronary heart disease; even with none of these risk factors, you might still develop coronary heart disease.

Risk factors for Cardiovascular Disease:

These risk factors are classified under three categories.

1. Risk Factors That Cannot Be Changed:

  • Heredity - The tendency to develop heart attack seems to run in families

  • Sex: Men are at greater risk than women

  • Race: Black Americans have a 45 percent greater chance of developing C.D. than whites. Another study found that people with oriental origin who migrated to the USA have a higher incidence of heart disease than the general population.

  • Age: Risk increases with age.

2. Major Risk Factors That Can Be Changed:

  • Cigarette Smoking: increases risk by 70 percent

  • High Blood Pressure: major risk for heart attack and stroke

  • Blood Cholesterol levels: High levels increase risk

  • Diabetes: increases risk of heart attack

  • High blood pressure

  • High blood cholesterol (Higher than 200)

  • Low HDL Cholesterol (Less than 35)

  • Overweight 

  • Diet: Eating more than 3 eggs a week, Eating red meats everyday.

3. Contributing Factors:

Obesity: contributes to high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels

Lack of Exercise: can lead to obesity

Stress: Contributes to high blood pressure. This had been shown to be significant contributing factor in the recent studies. It is believed that, under stress, the body can produce hormones that encourages the production of LDL, so called bad cholesterol that can accelerate heart diseases. Anxiety and stress can cause narrowing of the arteries with a resultant increase in blood pressure. This also can adversely affect proneness to heart disease.

If you are frequently out of breath or experience chest pains, or pains in the arm or neck, you are at an increased risk for CHD.

Some people have the mistaken notion that women do not contract CHD. This is wrong. It is true that women who are at child bearing age are protected. However, this changes dramatically after the menopause. Consider the following facts:

  • Heart disease claims the lives of twice as many women as all cancers combined.

  • More men have heart attacks, but women are twice as likely to die from heart attacks  within the first few weeks.

  • More men have heart disease early in life, but women narrow the gap after menopause.

Lifestyle Determines Cardio Risk

Several clinical studies have shown that lifestyle choices affect the cardiovascular risk.

For example, a study from the University of Newcastle, published in the British Medical Journal, says middle-age lifestyles, including diet and exercise practices, are very important when determining risk.

Dr. Douglas Lamont and his colleagues studied 154 men and 193 women, ages 49 to 51. The thickness of their carotid arteries was measured. The thicker the artery wall the higher the risk for cardiovascular diseases. The researchers correlated this data with early life factors and adult experiences, including smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and exercise.

The study concluded that the adult lifestyle and biological risk markers such as obesity and high blood pressure have a greater effect on the thickness of the carotid artery walls during middle age. The authors recommend that we should pay particular attention to our lifestyles during our middle years to minimize the risk for cardiovascular risk.

Next Topic: What Is Coronary Heart Disease?

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