Coronary artery disease, the most common type of cardiovascular disease, is the narrowing or blockage of the artery or arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle. This narrowing is caused by plaques, which are cholesterol deposits on the vessel wall, resulting in abnormal and gradual thickening of the lining of the heart arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis.The narrowing usually develops slowly over many years.
If this sounds like a harrowing experience, that’s because it probably is. Patients who smoke, or have conditions such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension and high blood cholesterol or fat levels are much more prone to developing coronary artery disease.
The heart has three main coronary arteries. People suffering from coronary artery disease have single, double, or triple-vessel disease, depending on the number of vessels that are narrowed. When the narrowing becomes critical, the patient can develop symptoms such as chest pains or shortness of breath.
In severe cases, the cholesterol plaque causing the blockage can sometimes rupture suddenly, causing a blood clot to form. This blood clot will cut off blood supply and cause damage to the heart muscle. This is called myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack. The patient may get severe chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, giddiness, and cold sweaty hands.
So how does one avoid this? The most significant first step is to make drastic lifestyle changes. If you’re a smoker, stub that terrible habit out immediately. Eating a healthy and balanced diet, with more vegetables or fruits, is important in protecting our heart arteries. Food that are rich in fats, particularly saturated fats, can lead to a higher level of cholesterol, which is a major component of the deposits that contribute to the narrowing of heart arteries.
Regular exercise plays a vital role in keeping the heart healthy. Exercise helps us to become fitter and build a stronger circulatory system. Obesity is unhealthy, as it leads to a higher incidence of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and high lipid levels, all of which can damage the heart arteries!