Coronary Arteries: Blood vessels in the heart muscle that feed oxygen to the heart.
Coronary Artery Disease: Fat like deposits (plaque) build up on the artery walls. As plaque builds up blood flow is reduced and the heart muscle may not get enough oxygen.
Risk factors are things that increase your chance of developing poor health. Some risk factors you can change (modifiable) and some you cannot change (non-modifiable).
MODIFIABLE RISK FACTORS FOR CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE:
Cigarette Smoking: Smoking reduces the blood's oxygen supply, injures the artery wall and raises heart rate and blood pressure. Second hand smoke can hurt you too.
Good News: The risk decreases within three years of quitting smoking.
High Blood Pressure: Blood presses too hard against the artery wall causing injury. The injured artery wall may not be able to supply the heart with enough blood and oxygen and a heart attack may happen.
High Cholesterol: There are different "carriers" of cholesterol found in the body. These are LDL (low density lipoproteins), HDL ( high density lipoproteins), and Triglycerides. The recommended levels for cholesterol are as follows: (based on National Cholesterol Education Program)
HDL: >40 Total Cholesterol: <200 Triglycerides: <150
LDL: < 70 Total cholesterol/HDL ratio: < 4.0
LDL is the "bad" cholesterol because it carries cholesterol back to the artery where it deposits. HDL is the "good" cholesterol because it carries cholesterol to the liver where it is excreted from the body.
Lack of Regular Aerobic Exercise: Aerobic exercise means doing an activity using large muscle groups which raises the heart rate. This includes brisk walking, swimming, hiking and jogging for example. Aerobic exercise keeps the heart strong and the coronary arteries open. Exercise may lower blood pressure, burn calories and help weight loss, raise the "good" cholesterol, reduce stress and lower blood sugar.
Stress: Each person has stress in their life. How we react to stress makes a difference. We need to learn how to control it. Stress can raise heart rate and blood pressure.
Diabetes: This may mean your body does not make enough insulin or that the insulin you make does not work right. As a result blood sugar levels can be high. People who are overweight and inactive have a higher chance of getting diabetes.
NON-MODIFIABLE RISK FACTORS FOR CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE:
Age: Plaque can start forming in the coronary arteries as early as childhood. Coronary artery disease happens slowly over many years. Also, the arteries are not as elastic (how much they can stretch) as we age.
Gender: Men are at a higher risk after the age of 45. Women are at a higher risk after the age of 55 or if they have reached menopause.
Family History: Increased risk if primary male relative suffered a fatal heart attack or sudden death before the age 55. Increased risk if primary female relative suffered a fatal heart attack or sudden death before the age of 65. Primary relative refers to a mother, father, sister, and/or brother. For example, if a first-degree relative (father or brother) has died from a heart attack at an early age (less than 55) then you have a strong family history and have a greater chance of having coronary artery disease.