Your heart is an amazing muscle. It works hard to feed and nourish all the organs in your body. As incredible as the heart is, though, it couldn’t do its job properly without the army of arteries and blood that supports it. (Learn more about the remarkable things blood does for your body.)
One important part of the heart team are the coronary arteries. These arteries hug the heart and act like fuel lines to supply it with oxygen-rich blood. Sometimes, though, these arteries become diseased or damaged, which affects the flow of blood to the heart. This is called coronary artery disease (CAD).
The main culprit that contributes to CAD is plaque. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, and other substances. Over time, this plaque can build up and cause your arteries to narrow or even become completely blocked.
If your arteries are too narrow or blocked, this affects blood flow to the heart. When the heart doesn’t get enough blood, it can cause these coronary artery disease symptoms:
Shortness of breath
Chest pain or discomfort (angina)
Nausea or vomiting
Or even a heart attack.
Learn the difference between the symptoms of a heart attack and symptoms of heart disease here.
How Can You Lower Your Risk of Coronary Artery Disease?
Knowing your individual risk factors for heart disease is one of the most important steps you can take to preventing coronary artery disease or other cardiac issues. That’s because each risk factor you have worsens other risk factors you might have. So if you have two risk factors, your risk of heart disease increases fourfold, and if you have three or more risk factors, your risk increases more than tenfold.
Some of these risk factors include:
High blood pressure
Lack of exercise
Learn more about the connection between diabetes and heart disease here.
While there may be some risk factors you can’t control, like your family history, there are others that you can control, such as:
Eating heart-healthy foods
Maintaining a healthy weight
And knowing your numbers: blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and body mass index.
If you suspect CAD, see a doctor. By changing your lifestyle, being on the right medication, and having good follow-up with your doctor, you have the power to delay, prevent, or even reverse it.
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