Coronary Heart Disease

The human heart is surrounded by blood vessels called coronary arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood and other essential nutrients. When these blood vessels become narrow and the blood flow to the heart is obstructed, a condition known as Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) or Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) arises.

Coronary Heart Disease is like the Trojan horse. It infiltrates the body, progresses over a period of many years, often unnoticed, and results in cardiac arrest or heart failure.

Causes and Risk Factors

Coronary heart disease is essentially caused by atherosclerosis, wherein there is a gradual buildup of fatty deposits, calcium, and scar tissue (plaque) in the coronary arteries. The arteries become narrow from plaque deposition which results in an insufficient blood supply to the heart. Over time, the diminished blood flow may cause chest pain (angina), breathlessness and other similar symptoms. A complete blockage of coronary arteries can lead to sudden cardiac arrest or heart attack (myocardial infarction).

Here are the major risk factors that may increase the risk of suffering from coronary heart disease:

Age: Over time plaque may build up in the arteries and cause coronary heart disease.
Gender: Several studies indicate that men are more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases than are women.

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Heredity: The chance of developing coronary heart disease increases greatly if there is a strong family history of heart diseases. Since family history can not be controlled it is crucial to treat and control other risk factors that may lead to coronary heart disease.
Smoking: Smokers are two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than are nonsmokers. Secondhand smoke also increases the risk for non-smokers.
High blood pressure: The heart is required to work overtime in the case of high blood pressure. This excessive work increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and congestive heart failure. The risk of heart disease increases greatly when other disorders such as obesity, high blood cholesterol levels or diabetes are present along with high blood pressure.
High cholesterol levels: High density of LDL (Low-Density Lipoproteins) or bad cholesterol causes fat to build up in the arteries which leads to heart diseases. This can be caused by lack of physical activity, diet high in saturated fats, diabetes or obesity.
Lack of physical activity: A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of contracting heart diseases including coronary heart disease. Even a modest amount of physical activity, such as 30 minutes of brisk walking during most days of the week, can enhance the quality of life and significantly reduce the risk of heart diseases.
Obesity: Obese and overweight individuals have high levels of fat and cholesterol in their bodies, which leads to blocked arteries and eventual heart disease.
Diabetes: Two out of every three people with diabetes die from heart disease and stroke. Individuals who are suffering from diabetes should be extremely careful and work with their health care practitioner to control other risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure to prevent heart diseases such as coronary heart disease.

Other factors such as stress, anger, excessive consumption of alcohol, radiation therapy to the chest (used for certain types of cancer) or other non-classic risk factors can trigger coronary heart disease.

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