How to Live Well with Coronary Artery Disease

By , Cardiologist – Virtua Cardiology, Cherry Hill

If you have coronary artery disease, or think you do, you’re not at the end of the road. There’s a lot you can do to take control of your condition.

Coronary artery disease occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart become hardened and narrowed due to a buildup of plaque. Left untreated, coronary artery disease can lead to chest pain (also called angina), shortness of breath, and if the artery becomes completely blocked, a heart attack.

Fortunately, with treatment and healthy changes, you can:

  • Reduce your risk of having a heart attack
  • Decrease your chance of dying suddenly of heart disease
  • Prevent or delay the need for a heart procedure or surgery

Make Heart-Smart Choices
Lifestyle changes are often the first line of treatment for people with coronary artery disease. For some, these changes alone are enough to keep your condition under control. For others, a combination of healthier habits and medication is the best approach.

These changes may include:

Eating a nutritious diet to lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as control your weight. Choose fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk, poultry, fish and nuts. Limit saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and salt.

Being physically active to lose weight, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce your risk for diabetes. Ask your doctor about a safe exercise plan for you. Most people need at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise (such as walking fast, cycling, or doing water aerobics).

Maintaining a healthy weight is good for your overall health. Body mass index (BMI) is an estimate of how much body fat you have, based on your height and weight. Aim for a BMI of less than 25.

Quitting smoking, if you are a smoker, is a giant step toward better health. It reduces your risk of having a heart attack, stroke, cancer, and more. Ask your doctor about programs and products that help you quit for good. Virtua offers individual smoking cessation counseling and support groups to help you kick the habit. Click here to learn more.

Reducing and managing stress. Stress, when excessive and long term, can cause high blood pressure and lead you to adopt behaviors that may negatively impact your health, such as smoking and eating an unhealthy diet.

Follow Your Treatment Plan
Sometimes lifestyle changes are not enough it control your condition. Medications are often used to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and relieve chest pain.

Be sure to take your medicine as prescribed by your doctor.

Depending on your condition, your doctor may recommend a procedure to open an artery and improve blood flow, such as stent implementation or coronary artery bypass.

By adopting a healthy lifestyle and working with your doctor, you can reduce your risk for a heart attack and live an active life.

Looking for a cardiologist? Get an appointment with a Virtua heart specialist within 48 hours. Call 856-363-0696.

Updated November 24, 2020

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