Helping the body: Coronary artery disease (CAD)

Coronary artery disease is a general name for the diseases connected to the arteries supplying the heart with oxygen and nutrients. It may include angina, heart attack, stroke and other disorders. Coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart might get narrow limiting the amount of oxygen and nutrients the heart gets. This oxygen and nutrient deprivation causes pain in the chest called angina pectoris. When the heart cannot get oxygen and nutrients because of the obstruction in the coronary arteries, the part of a heart muscle can die, and it’s called the heart attack.

The coronary artery disease is the most common cause of death in the United States of America. More that 1 million Americans die annually because of this disease. Approximately 59.7 million Americans have it, many of them may not even know about it: coronary artery disease may not have symptoms until it’s well developed.


Symptoms of the heart attack:

  • Felling of burning, squeezing pain or intense pressure on the chest. This pain may last for several minutes, and extend to the shoulders, arm, neck or jaw. The pain may come together with the feelings of anxiety;
  • Sweating, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting;,
  • Difficulty swallowing, sudden ringing in the ears;
  • Loss of speech.

What to do in the case of the heart attack:

  • If you have a chest pain for more than 20 min and it doesn’t go away after resting, call 911. It’s very important to get medical help immediately if you have a heart attack.  The heart muscle is not dead during first 3 hours yet, so there is a great chance to bring it back to normal if the obstruction to its blood supply is removed on time.
  • After calling the emergency number chew or swallow an aspirin tablet, drink a glass of water, and wait for the medical team.

The most common form of coronary artery disease is the atherosclerosis which is the buildup of fatty deposits on the inside of the arteries. These fatty deposits narrow the vessels and slow down the blood flow causing the heart to get insufficient amount of oxygen and nutrients. While healthy arteries are like clean pipes with smooth lining, the arteries damaged by atherosclerosis have fatty streaks called plaque in the walls. The damage begins with little cracks on the walls caused by high blood pressure, elevated level of cholesterol and triglycerides, smoke, diabetes, drugs, infections of the inner walls of the arteries. Very soon these little cracks joined by mixture of fats, calcium deposits and cell debris causing the inflammation in the wall of the artery. The body’s immune system starts fighting the inflammation sending the white blood cells to the injured area and then fibrous cap is formed over the fatty deposit. If deposit is growing it can block the vessel causing chest pain. If the fibrous cap is ruptured the heart attack may occur.

Though heredity is linked to the developing of coronary artery disease, life style plays much more important role than genetics. The chances that a person will develop coronary artery disease are much more in the case of:

  • Smoking. Smoking doubles your risk of developing CAD, and it makes your chances to have a heart attack even six times more likely. Quit smoking, and after 3 years you will be at the same risk as nonsmokers!
  • Physical inactivity. People who exercise moderately two or three times a week for at least 30 min decrease their risk of heart disease.
  • High cholesterol level. Cholesterol is the major component of atherosclerotic plaque.  Lower the cholesterol! For each percent you lower your cholesterol level you drop your chances of developing CAD for 2-3 percents.
  • High blood pressure. Lowering your blood pressure protects you from heart disease and the stroke!
  • Diabetes. People who have diabetes three to seven times likely to die of cardiovascular disease.
  • Being overweight. Being at least 20% more than your ideal weight makes you more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption. It’s generally believed that two drinks a day for men and one drink for women can decrease chances of developing heart disease, but anything more than this limit harms your systems.

Combination of factors increases the risk rapidly. Depression and suppressed anger are marked too as a risk factor.

 Preventing heart disease:

Make sure your diet is balanced and contains lots of fiber.  Breakfast cereal is very beneficial for the heart.

  • Eat plenty of raw fruits and vegetables. An eight year study of almost 40,000 men found that men who ate at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day had 39 percent lower chances of stroke.
  • Drink raw juices. Pomegranate juice is believed to be very helpful in softening your arteries by reducing blood vessel damage as well as reverse the progress of atherosclerosis.
  • Include onion and garlic in your diet. They help reduce serum cholesterol.
  • Eat omega-3 fatty acids containing food such as raw nuts, olive oil, pink salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, Atlantic herring. The omega-3 acids lower level of blood triglycerides and reduce the tendency to form blood clots.
  • Limit total fat intake. Total fat intake for the atherosclerosis should be 20-30 % of calories with saturated fat not more than 10% of calories. Avoid trans fatty acids and hydrogenated fats.  For protein eat broiled fish, and low in fat skinless turkey and chicken. When choosing dairy products go for low-fat or skim options.
  • Drink plenty of water. It’s recommended to consume at least 80 ounces of water a day.
  • Reduce sodium in your diet. Recommended dose is 6 grams a day for a healthy person. If you already suffer high blood pressure try to stay away from salt and all sodium containing products. They can be hidden under names of “soda”, “sodium”, or symbol “Na” on the label.
  • Keep your weight down.
  • Avoid stress.

The best heart food:

Fresh fruits. They contain fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Beans and legumes. Fiber and plant proteins in beans and legumes help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Cold-water fish. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish help to lower cholesterol.

Dark leafy greens. Spinach, mesclun, swiss chard, argula, and other greens help to reduce levels of a blood enzyme implicated in heart disease.

Avocadoes. They are rich in monounsaturated fats which help to reduce LDL level, and potassium, which helps to regulate the heart rhythm, and blood pressure.

Whole grains. They are rich in fiber and B vitamins.

Nuts. Good source of mono – and polyunsaturated fats, and minerals.

Soy foods. They are rich in phytoestrogens helping keep correct level of blood fat. Including 25 g of soy protein in your diet lowers your cholesterol in people with elevated cholesterol level by about 9 percent.

Spices and herbs. They help digest fat.

Wheat germ and flax meal. They are rich in fiber, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Easy tips to cut saturated fat intake:

  • Choose a leaner cuts of meat and remove fat whenever possible.
  • Downsize meat portions.
  • Cook with olive oil or vegetable oil instead of butter or margarine.
  • Use tofu or nuts in stir-fries instead of meat.
  • Try adding a slice of avocado instead of cheese to a sandwich.
  • Enjoy a baked potato instead of fries, and use low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream.
  • Switch to a lower-fat milk.
  • Substitute buttermilk instead of mayonnaise in salad dressings, or instead of butter in mashed potato.
  • Add more beans and vegetables to casseroles and chillies – use less meat or veggie ground round.
  • Enjoy fruit served with frozen sherbet or low-fat frozen yogurt instead of ice cream for deserts.