Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) develops when the coronary arteries that supply your heart with oxygen and nutrients are narrowed. A chronic condition, it affects over 60,000 Australians (2004-2005) and in 2006 was responsible for the deaths of 23,000 Australians (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare).
CHD is often a key factor in the development of other heart conditions, such as Angina, and places you at greater risk of a Heart Attack.
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is also known as Ischaemic Heart Disease (IHD) or Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). It is most often the result of atherosclerosis, the gradual build up of fatty plaque deposits called atheroma, which clog the artery walls. If the arteries become too clogged, it's harder for your heart to get the supply of oxygen and nutrient rich blood it needs to function.
Eventually CHD will progress and Angina will be experienced and if left untreated, a heart attack is not far away. The good news is that Coronary Heart Disease can be delayed and can even be avoided with a few life style and diet changes combined with supplements known to improve heart health.
* The medical definition of chronic refers to illnesses that are of long duration and slow progression. These conditions develop slowly over time and do not end. Symptoms may be continual or intermittent, but the patient usually has the condition for life.
There are several risk factors that increase your chance of developing Coronary Heart Disease, and while you can't do anything about some risk factors such as your gender, age or family history, the good news is that you can take control of a large number of the major ones.
risk factors known to contribute to CHD, and that you can influence include:
CHD devlopes slowly over time and you probably won't notice that you have CHD until your arteries are clogged up enough to cause symptoms of Angina, Heart Attack or Arrhythmia making prevention paramount.
To work out a diagnosis, your doctor may run a series of tests, including an ECG (electrocardiogram). This measures your heart's electrical system, using small leads that are attached to your chest. An ECG can be performed either at rest or as a ‘stress test' when your heart rate is elevated (e.g. on a treadmill).
Another non-invasive test is an echocardiogram, which uses ultrasound waves to create a picture of your heart, so your doctor can see how well it's working
To examine whether your coronary arteries are blocked, and how extensive any build up is, another method of diagnosis is an angiogram, a kind of X-ray. This procedure requires an anaesthetic, as a catheter is inserted into a vein in your groin and guided to your heart. A dye is injected into the coronary arteries, highlighting blockages on a monitor.
Coronary angioplasty can restore the flow of blood to the affected part of the heart. This procedure inserts a ‘balloon' into your artery which is then inflated opening up the blockage. Once the coronary artery is open, a stent, or expandable metal tube, is often inserted into the artery so that it stays open permanently.
If you're at risk of developing abnormal Arrhythmias, your doctor may implant a small device, called an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) into your chest, or start you on medications to control your heart rate.
Coronary artery bypass graft surgery, (CABG) may also be performed. This procedure uses a section of healthy vein or synthetic tubing to redirect blood flow around a narrowed area in one or more of your arteries, so that blood can flow to the heart more freely.
Your doctor may recommend long-term prescription medication that tackles some of the risk factors head on: statins for High Cholesterol; ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers for High Blood Pressure; nitrates for Angina, and blood thinners such as aspirin, clopidogrel, and warfarin to reduce the risk of clots forming in the narrowed arteries.
CHD generally develops over several years, so taking steps now to improve your heart health is essential. Know your risk factors, manage them, and follow this quick guide to improved cardiovascular health. Importantly, if you have any concerns about your heart, particularly if you have a family history of heart disease, don't delay – talk to your doctor.
Coronary Heart Disease develops over many years and although you can't do anything about risk factors such as your gender, age or family medical history, you can reduce your risk significantly by knowing the controllable risk factors and managing them with life style changes, regular monitoring and supliments.
If you smoke, there has never been a better time to quit. Nicotine replacement patches or prescription medications are effective in reducing the cravings.
Do you know your cholesterol levels? Most people don't. Information is key, so knowing where you stand is the first step in keeping track and maintaining your heart health. You can order a Blood Pathology Request through HeartSmart.me. Results are mailed directly to you and you can track your results using the My Heart Health section of HeartSmart.me.
Supplements are a great way to make sure you're getting your daily requirement of heart healthy nutrients. Supplements such as Omega 3 fish oil, Vitamins C and E and Coenzyme Q10 can be very beneficial to your heart health.
If you have diabetes, follow your doctor’s direction and keep your blood glucose within a healthy range. Even if you don't have diabetes, stick to a low GI (Glycaemic Index) diet. You won’t be hungry and your blood sugar levels will be stable.
Order a HeartSmart.me blood pressure monitor and keep track of your blood pressure weekly. You can record your results in the My Heart Health section of HeartSmart.me. Aim to keep your blood pressure out of the danger zone - below 140/90mmHg. If your blood pressure is consistently high see your doctor.
Get a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day, or at least 2 hours in total per week. Even better, if you can get 4 hours of sweaty activity per week, you'll help lower your risk of cancer too.
Get your waist measurement to your 'low risk' zone. Men should keep it below 95cm and women should be below 80cm. Aim for a Body Mass Index of less than 25. You can track your progress in the My Heart Health section of HeartSmart.me.
Happiness is good for the heart. Just as negative emotions such as depression, anger, and hostility are risk factors for heart attack and stroke, studies show that happiness seems to protect the heart.