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Coronary Heart Disease (cont.)

More Prevention

Diet: A balanced, low-fat diet is good not just for people with high cholesterol but for everyone.

  • The American Heart Association recommends that maximum calories from fat be less than 30% of total calories in any meal.
  • Each day, try to eat 6-8 servings of bread, cereal, or rice; 2-4 servings of fresh fruit; 3-5 servings of fresh or frozen vegetables; 2-3 servings of nonfat milk, yogurt, or cheese; and 2-3 servings of lean meat, poultry, fish, or dry beans.
  • Use olive or canola oils for cooking. These oils contain monounsaturated fats known to lower cholesterol.
  • Eat 2 servings of fish each week. Eat fish such as salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna. All of these fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which lower levels of certain fats in the blood and help prevent irregular heartbeats and blood clots that cause heart attacks.
  • Research suggests that alcohol can help protect against coronary heart disease, but limit your intake to 1-2 drinks per day. Higher amounts can increase blood pressure, cause heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias), and damage your heart muscle and liver directly.
  • Avoiding fast food may not be pleasant or convenient, but it may provide significant benefit in the long run.

Smoking: Quitting smoking is the single best change you can make.

  • Quitting can be difficult, so seek your health care provider's help.
  • Passive smoking (breathing in tobacco smoke), smoking cigars, or chewing tobacco are equally dangerous to your health.

Physical inactivity: Exercise helps to lower your blood pressure, increase your level of good cholesterol (HDL), and control your weight.

  • Try to complete an endurance exercise of at least 30 minutes, 3-5 times a week. But just brisk walking alone will improve cardiovascular survival.
  • Exercise can include walking, swimming, biking, or aerobics.
  • Before beginning an exercise program, talk to your health care provider.

Obesity: Excess weight puts extra strain on your heart and blood vessels by increasing blood pressure, plus frequently associated with diabetes, high cholesterol and triglycerides, and low HDL.

  • A high-fiber, low-fat diet and regular exercise can help you lose weight and keep it off.
  • Fad diet programs may be unsafe. Seek your health care provider's advice before starting any weight loss program.
  • Don't rely on drugs to lose weight. Certain medicines used for weight loss-for example, Fen-Phen-have been associated with dangerous heart valve damage and other serious medical conditions in some users.

High blood pressure: If you have high blood pressure, your health care provider should treat it aggressively.

  • Proper diet, low salt intake, regular exercise, reduction in alcohol intake, and weight reduction are of paramount importance.
  • If your health care provider prescribes medications, take them faithfully.

Diabetes: Diabetes causes blockage and hardening (atherosclerosis) of blood vessels everywhere in the body, including coronary arteries. Controlling diabetes significantly reduces coronary risk.

Viagra and coronary heart disease: If you intend to use sildenafil (Viagra) for erectile dysfunction, contact your doctor to make sure it is safe for you.

  • If you have a significant coronary blockage, angina or heart attack may occur with use of Viagra.
  • Also, you must avoid taking nitroglycerin in any form-pill, patch, or spray-within 48 hours of taking Viagra. Using Viagra with nitroglycerin may cause dangerously low blood pressure.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/22/2014
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