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Coronary Heart Disease (cont.)

What about diet and heart disease prevention?

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.

What about other lifestyle changes to prevent heart disease?

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

  • Quitting can be difficult, so seek your health-care professional'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 professional.

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 professional'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 professional 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 professional 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.

What is the outlook for someone with heart disease?

Recovery from coronary heart disease depends on many factors.

  • Extent of coronary artery disease and number of coronary arteries involved
  • History of previous heart attacks or bypass surgery
  • Capacity for exercise or exertion
  • Heart function - How well the heart contracts
  • Acuteness of symptoms - The need to visit an emergency department with angina, unstable angina, or heart attack

Medically reviewed by Robert J. Bryg, MD; Board Certified Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Cardiovascular Disease


"Revascularization in patients with stable coronary artery disease: Coronary artery bypass graft surgery versus percutaneous coronary intervention"

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/25/2016
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