The coronary arteries are the main blood vessels that supply the heart with blood, nutrients and oxygen. When they become damaged or diseased, usually due to a buildup of plaque, the result is coronary arterial disease. This buildup can narrow your coronary arteries over time, causing the heart to receive less blood and can eventually lead to causing chest pain (angina), shortness of breath or other uncomfortable symptoms.
A complete blockage, caused either by accumulated plaques or a ruptured plaque, can result in heart attack (an injury to the heart muscle that results from a loss of blood supply). Since coronary arterial disease can often take decades to develop, it can go virtually unnoticed until it produces a heart attack.
Uncontrolled risk factors
- Age: As we get older, our risk for heart disease naturally increases.
- Gender: Men do generally develop heart disease at a younger age than women and are diagnosed more often. Women, however, account for more than 50% of deaths related to heart disease. One reason is that since women typically develop heart disease at an older age, other health conditions like osteoporosis or Alzheimer’s mask the signs and symptoms of heart disease.
- Heredity: If your father or brother suffered a heart attack before the age of 55 or your mother or sister before the age of 65, you are at a slightly elevated risk for heart disease.
- If you are suffering already from a non-preventable heart condition or sickle cell anemia, your risk is increased.
Controlled risk factors
Manageable health conditions must be kept under control. Any one of these factors can increase your risk for heart disease. The more factors that apply to you, the more your risk increases!
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke
- Poor diet
- Physical inactivity
According to the American Heart Association, ideal cardiovascular health is based on seven simple factors:
- Being a nonsmoker
- Having a weight in the normal range
- Participating in physical activity
- Eating a healthy diet
- Having good cholesterol levels
- Having normal blood pressure and fasting glucose levels
- Being free of heart and blood vessel disease