How to prevent Coronary Artery Disease

Statistics indicate that heart ailments, including Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), are responsible for 60% of all deaths in India. CAD impacts the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, which can over time put a person at an increased risk of a heart attack. People who have a family history of heart diseases are more likely to have high levels of calcium build-up in their arteries. It is, therefore, important that they get their coronary artery calcium levels checked at regular intervals and adopt a healthy lifestyle.

CAD occurs when the arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle become hardened and narrowed. This is due to the build-up of cholesterol and other material called plaque on their inner walls and is called atherosclerosis. As it grows, less blood can flow through the arteries. As a result, the heart muscle can’t get the blood or oxygen it needs. This can lead to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack.

The tendency of premature CAD in Indians can be attributed to a genetic predisposition, including high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL-C) or ‘bad’ cholesterol and metabolic syndrome. When combined with an unhealthy lifestyle, these can wreak havoc on the heart leading to early mortality and morbidity. It is, therefore, important to cultivate healthy habits such as eating a low fat and high fibre diet, limiting salt consumption, exercising regularly, quitting smoking and keeping alcohol consumption under check and getting regular preventive health check-ups right at the outset to reduce the risk of acquiring CAD and other heart problems.

Angioplasty is a treatment that is used to restore and improve blood flow. A long, thin tube (catheter) is inserted into the narrowed part of the artery. A wire with a deflated balloon is then passed through the catheter to the narrowed area. The balloon is inflated, compressing the deposits against the artery walls. A stent is often left in the artery. Drug-eluting stents release medication to help keep the arteries open. In Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG), the surgeon creates a graft to bypass blocked coronary arteries using a vessel from another part of the body.

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