The heart pumps pure blood to all parts of the body through a network of arteries. These are thicker in the beginning and become finer and thinner as they reach the various organs. These arteries are lined by a layer of epithelial tissues and as blood flows through them, the heavier cholesterol / fat molecules settle down along the walls.
This attracts more and more fat molecules to settle down. This is known as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Over a period of time, the vessels circumference reduces and the blood supply to the target organ reduces. This impacts proper functioning of these organs and when this happens to the major organs like the heart, kidney or the brain, conditions like stroke or thrombosis or heart attack can occur.
This condition, known as coronary artery disease, is becoming a major cause of deaths. While that is the bad news, the good news is that it is largely lifestyle dependent, and if steps are taken, it can be prevented, and in the early stages, the damage completely reversed.
1. Diet: A low-fat, high-fiber, heart-healthy diet consisting of Omega-3 fatty acids is recommended by doctors, especially to people who are prone to develop heart disease. This also requires reduced salt, increased unsaturated fats, reduced triglycerides and reduced sugar. Include loads of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds and fish oils. Include multivitamins or other supplements after checking with your doctor.
2. Exercise: Regular exercise in any form increases the efficiency of the circulatory system, keeps the cholesterol levels in check and helps in blood pressure management. Exercise in any form is advisable, based on individual preference. A moderate physical activity of 30 to 45 minutes per day is advisable.
3. Smoking: This is one of the major risk factors for smoking, and quitting or controlling smoking is one of the best methods to prevent coronary artery disease.
4. Alcohol consumption: While moderate alcohol consumption is believed to be healthy for the heart, excessive alcohol consumption is a strict no-no. Binge drinking especially is shown to cause heart attacks.
5. Weight management: Check with your doctor on what is ideal BMI for you and work out a plan to keep your weight under check.
6. Regular medications: If you are on blood pressure or diabetes medications, ensure you do not miss them. Keep a constant check to ensure your readings are managed well.
7. Watch out: Ask your doctor if there are specific symptoms that you need to watch out and seek medical support if you see any of them.
Coronary disease is not treatable fully, but can be prevented and managed effectively to improve the overall quality of life. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a cardiologist.