Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when the coronary arteries, or the arteries that bring blood to the heart muscle, become hardened and narrowed. The arteries harden and narrow because of a buildup of plaque on their inner walls. This is called atherosclerosis. Significant narrowing of the coronary arteries can reduce blood flow to the heart. This limits the amount of oxygen the heart receives and can lead to angina, heart failure, irregular heart rhythm, and heart attack.
CAD is the most common type of heart disease. It is the leading cause of death in the U.S. in both men and women. Other names for CAD are coronary heart disease (CHD), heart disease, and ischemic heart disease.
First, select your gender, then answer the resulting questions to help determine your risk for CAD.
The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance for developing CAD. Some risk factors you cannot control. These are your age, gender, and a family history of heart disease. Other risk factors you can change. These include smoking, diabetes, being overweight or obese, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and physical inactivity. The information you gave us indicates that you have the following risk factors.
As you get older, your risk for CAD increases. In men, risk increases after age 45. In women, risk increases after age 55.
The information you gave us means that you currently do not have any significant risk factors for coronary artery disease. However, men do have a slightly higher risk of heart attack than women. The following information may help you avoid coronary artery disease in the future.
The information you gave us means that you currently do not have any significant risk factors for coronary artery disease. The following information may help you avoid coronary artery disease in the future.
Family history of heart disease
According to the American Heart Association, if one or both of your parents have heart disease, you are more likely to develop it yourself. In addition to your family history, your ethnicity can also mean you have inherited an increased risk. For example, African Americans have more severe high blood pressure than Caucasians and a higher risk for heart disease. Heart disease risk is also higher among Mexican Americans, American Indians, native Hawaiians and some Asian Americans.
High total blood cholesterol
Your high cholesterol makes it more likely that you will develop CAD. The higher your cholesterol level, the greater your risk for CAD. People who have total cholesterol levels greater than 200 mg/dL may have an increased risk factor for CAD. Talk with your health care provider about your total cholesterol levels and how to lower them. Sometimes you can lower your cholesterol just by changing your lifestyle. Sometimes you may also need to take medication.
High blood pressure
It's important to control your high blood pressure. High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says. This extra work can cause hardening of the arteries. A blood pressure level of 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered high. If your blood pressure is between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg, you have prehypertension. This means that you don't have high blood pressure now but are likely to develop it later. Both numbers in a blood pressure test are important, but for people who are 50 or older, the first number (systolic pressure) gives the most accurate diagnosis of high blood pressure. Talk to your health care provider about how to lower your blood pressure. Sometimes you can lower your blood pressure simply by changing your lifestyle.
Your diabetes makes it much more likely that you will develop CAD. Even people who carefully control their blood sugar are at greater risk. The risk is even greater for people who don't control their blood sugar. About two-thirds of people with diabetes die of some form of heart disease or stroke. If you have diabetes, work with your health care provider to keep it under control. Try to control any other risk factors you have.
Because you smoke, your risk for developing CAD is two to three times greater than for a person who doesn't smoke. Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke cause CAD because the toxins in cigarette smoke lead to hardening of the arteries. Talk with your health care provider about how to quit smoking.
Your body mass index (BMI) is . Your BMI gives you an estimate of your body fat. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 puts you in the overweight category; a BMI of 30 or higher puts you in the obese category. Your extra pounds -- especially if most of them are around your waist -- make it more likely that you will develop CAD. Excess weight makes your heart work harder and raises your blood pressure. It also raises your total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lowers your HDL ("good") cholesterol levels. Extra weight can make diabetes more likely to develop. Many obese and overweight people may have difficulty losing weight. Talk with your health care provider about how to lose weight.
Your lack of regular exercise puts you at risk for developing CAD. Regular, moderate exercise helps control cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It also helps prevent type 2 diabetes and obesity. The more vigorous your exercise, the greater the benefits, according to the American Heart Association. Be sure to check with your health care provider before starting an exercise program. Your provider can also help you decide which exercise is best for you.
These are steps you can take to cut your risk for CAD:
- Don't smoke. If you do smoke, quit. Talk to your health care provider if you need help in quitting.
- Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Limit how much alcohol you drink. If you are a man, limit your alcohol to no more than two drinks a day. If you are a woman, limit your alcohol to no more than one drink a day.
- Exercise 3 to 4 days a week. Aim for 40 minutes on average of moderate- to high-intensity exercise each day. Be sure to check with your health care provider before starting an exercise program.
- Eat a healthy diet. This means limiting the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat.
- Control your blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, follow your health care provider's advice on how to lower it.
- Control your cholesterol levels. If you have high cholesterol levels, follow your health care provider's advice on how to lower it.
- Manage your weight. Lose weight if you need to.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional health care. Always consult with a health care provider for advice concerning your health. Only your health care provider can determine if you have coronary artery disease.