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Heart Disease

Coronary heart disease is the disease that occurs when coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrowed and blocked. The blockage is in the form of a blood clot that can block a percentage of one of five coronary arteries. Cholesterol deposits narrow arteries and, thereby, create the conditions for a blockage to occur and for weakening of heart muscle by depriving it of oxygen and nutrients.

Each year, 900,000 people in the United States have a heart attack. Of these, roughly 225,000 die, including 125,000 who die before ever getting any medical attention. But advances in treatment have meant that more victims can survive and go on to live normal, healthy lives (

Even with these new treatments, the disease is a killer. Doctors have found ways to extend the life of people with the disease, but they have not found a way to completely cure the disease. Once people contract coronary heart disease, generally they eventually die from having it.

Coronary heart disease has several levels of severity. These varying levels of severity have caused the evolution of several surgical treatments for heart disease. The three main treatments are open-heart surgery, balloon angioplasty, and stenting, which can be subsequent to the angioplasty.

Balloon angioplasty is the process of going into the veins and inflating a small balloon to push open the blockages. The use of stents can come after this procedure. " Stents are scaffolding devices that maintain vessel patency after an interventional procedure, usually balloon angioplasty. Coronary stenting is now used in more than 50% of patients undergoing nonsurgical myocardial revascularization. It is considered a routine adjunct to coronary angioplasty" (Saunders, "The growing role of stents in coronary artery disease," Patient Care, May 30, 1999 v33 i10 p43).

Doctors have several techniques that they use to determine which procedure to use for treatment. One of the most common is the arteriogram. This procedure allows the doctors to determine the level of blockage in the coronary arteries. An echocardiogram is a process that images the heart structure and the blood flow through the valves. This procedure is a non-invasive procedure that does not require any special conditions. It is not possible to see the blockage with this procedure; however, it is possible to see the effect of blockage.

There are several drugs used in the treatment of heart disease. Statins are used to lower cholesterol levels in the blood. Doctors also prescribe blood thinners, antacids and Valium for relaxation. Anti-rejection drugs are used in some circumstances. All these drugs are used in addition to any that are needed for post-operative complications.

Lifestyle choices can effect how long we live; and if the right decisions are made, we can extend our lives. It is known that smoking has a direct relationship to heart disease. Some studies indicate that smoking doubles one’s chance of having heart disease.

Exercising is a great way to keep a body healthy. Exercise strengthens the heart and allows it to work more easily. Exercise promotes the development of small blood vessels in your heart muscle, increasing blood flow to the muscle.

A healthy diet is a very important in keeping a heart healthy. Saturated fat and cholesterol can cause blockage in the arteries and lead to heart disease. The phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables may help your heart, too. Recent epidemiological studies suggest that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables results in a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease that can't be attributed to major macronutrients or known vitamins and minerals (

Unfortunately, many Americans do not follow healthy lifestyles. Over 33% of Americans are considered obese ( Obesity leads to high cholesterol, increased blood pressure, and greater risk for diabetes and heart disease.

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The information presented here is not meant to be medical advice nor to act as a substitute for medical advice. Serious side-effects, including death, could result if one were to take any prescription medicine without the supervision of a physician.

Copyright 2003, Thomas Manaugh, PhD