57. Coronary Heart Disease: Nine Ways to Avoid the Deadliest Health Problem

Heart attacks and other types of coronary heart disease are the nation’s number one killer. Fortunately, heart disease claims fewer and fewer lives each year, thanks to growing public awareness of the benefits of exercise and good nutrition and recent advances in medical treatment of heart disease.

To avoid heart disease, follow these steps:

  1. Have your blood pressure checked at each office visit, at least every two years, or as advised by your doctor. To control high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice.

  2. If you smoke, quit. Nicotine constricts blood flow to the heart, decreases oxygen supply to the heart, and seems to play a significant role in the development of coronary artery disease.

  3. Ask your doctor to check you for diabetes, which is associated with atherosclerosis. Follow his or her advice if you have diabetes.

  4. Maintain a normal body weight. (People who are obese are more prone to  atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and diabetes, and therefore coronary heart disease.)

  5. Eat a diet low in trans fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol. Trans fats are in hydrogenated vegetable oils. Saturated fats are in meats, dairy products, and some tropical oils, like coconut and palm kernel oils. Diets high in trans fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol contribute to the fatty sludge that forms inside artery walls.

  6. Follow the “DASH” (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Access www.nhlbi.gov for information on the DASH diet.

  7. Get some form of aerobic exercise at least three times a week for 20 minutes at a time. Sitting around hour after hour, day after day, week in and week out with no regular physical activity may cause circulation problems later in life and contributes to atherosclerosis. (See chapter 3, Get Fit, Stay Fit, for tips on walking, bicycling, and other kinds of aerobic exercise.) Consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

  8. Reduce the harmful effects of stress.

  9. Get regular medical checkups.

Signs of a heart attack.

You should also know the signs of a heart attack so you can get immediate medical attention if necessary, before it’s too late. They are:

  1. Feeling of pain (may spread to the arm, neck, tooth, jaw, or back), tightness, burning, squeezing, or heaviness in the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.

  2. Chest discomfort with: Shortness of breath; nausea; sweating; feeling lightheaded; or fainting.

  3. Fast or uneven pulse

  4. Unusual chest, abdominal, or stomach pain.

Signs more likely in women, than men:

  1. An uneasy feeling in the chest with: Unexplained or extreme anxiety; unusual fatigue or weakness; fluttering heartbeats; or severe indigestion that does not go away with an antacid.

  2. Sweating for no reason or pale, gray, or clammy skin.

  3. Dizziness, nausea, trouble breathing, or jaw or arm pain without chest pain.

If you think you’re having a heart attack, call 911. Ask the 911 dispatcher if you should chew on a regular (325mg.) aspirin or four (81 mg.) children’s chewable tablets.

Chapter 2
  1. Major Medical Conditions:

  2. Prevention, Detection, and Treatment