Is There a Roadblock to Your Heart?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men. Specifically, coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease and kills more than 380,000 people every year.

Coronary Heart Disease: The Roadblock to the Heart

Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries. These are the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Plaque is a made of cholesterol deposits. When accumulated, the arteries begin to narrow over time; it’s a process referred to as atherosclerosis. This condition can cause angina, which causes chest pain due to lack of blood supply. It can also weaken the heart muscle and lead to heart failure, arrhythmia and an irregular heartbeat. The first sign of CAD for some individuals is a heart attack. Not only does the plaque block the artery and cause a heart attack, but a heart attack can also occur if the plaque deposit breaks off and blocks the coronary artery.

Risk Factors for CAD

There are conditional, behavioral and heredity factors that can put people at a higher risk for developing CAD. Blood cholesterol conditions like high low-density lipoprotein levels (LDL) are the bad cholesterol. Too much of it leads to narrowing of the arteries. A lipoprotein profile is done to measure LDL, along with triglycerides in the blood.

Tobacco use, diet, obesity, alcohol and physical inactivity all increase the risk for CAD. Cigarette smoking increases blood clotting factors and atherosclerosis. It also reduces the amount of oxygen the blood can transport. Diets high in cholesterol and saturated fats promote atherosclerosis. Physical inactivity has been directly linked to higher levels of LDL and CAD. Alcohol specifically increases the level of triglycerides, which contributes to CAD.

Detection and Treatment of CAD

Physicians can determine your risk for CAD by learning about your family’s medical history, taking your blood pressure and doing cholesterol-blood level test. There are also specific diagnostic tests like an EKG, exercise stress test, chest X-rays, cardiac catheterization and cardio angiogram. EKG’s and exercise stress tests measure the rate of the heartbeat. Cardiac catheterization measures blood flow in the heart’s chambers, and coronary angiogram monitors blockage and the flow of blood through the heart.

If you are diagnosed with CAD, your doctor will recommend lifestyle changes, such as exercising, quitting smoking and eating a healthier diet. Medications may also be necessary. Medications like Crestor ( ) can treat high cholesterol. Crestor is a statin that prevents the production of LDL by suppressing a liver enzyme that plays in a vital role in cholesterol production. According to clinical studies made by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, a 10mg dose of Crestor lowers LDL production by up to 52 percent. In addition, reports indicate that Crestor helps the lining in the blood vessels work better and keeps blood platelets from clumping together. Statins are typically the first line of treatment for CAD.

Sometimes, a coronary angioplasty may be needed to treat CAD. This surgical procedure compresses the plaque in the artery and helps restore blood flow to the heart muscle. During the procedure, a tube with a balloon is threaded through the blood vessel to the affected artery. It is both a safe and effective surgical procedure for CAD. This procedure is often done as emergency treatment for a heart attack.

Clinical Study of High-Potency Statins

A study looking at thousands of individuals who suffered heart attacks indicated that treatment with high-potency statins like atorvastatin and Crestor showed significant improvement in the change of survival when compared to normal statins. This study was led by the University of Dundee. The data revealed that patients who switched from normal statin treatment to high potency statins actually lived longer. The data was taken from 9,597 patients. Of those, 1,883 has switched to a more potent statin, 6,990 were treated with simvastatin and 724 received a statin ezetimibe combination After analyzing the group’s date for an average of three years from the first attack date, the results showed that those who had taken the high-potency statin had a 28 percent lower risk of death.

Many Americans take statins. Currently, there are about 127 million Americans over the age of 40 that are taking a statin. Half are men ages 65 to 74, and 39 percent are women over the age of 75.

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