How can I prevent Coronary Artery Disease?
To prevent Coronary Artery Disease you must first understand that not all of the risk factors are something you can do anything about.
The risk factors fall into three categories:
1) Modifiable, these are things that you are actually able to change by changing your behaviors.
2) Controllable, these are areas that you can’t necessarily change but you can keep under control through medications and/or by changing your behaviors.
3) Non-Modifiable are things that you cannot change or control.
Ok, now that I’m finished explaining that I bet you want to know what you CAN do to prevent Coronary Artery Disease.
The most important category to work on is your modifiable risk factors, these are: Obesity, Lack of Exercise and Smoking Tobacco.
I’m going to start with what I feel is the number one modifiable risk factor: Smoking Tobacco. We all know we shouldn’t smoke. Our mothers told us, our teachers told us, the surgeon general told us and now even the tobacco companies are telling us, but we continue to do so. Why? Even as an ex-smoker I can’t answer that, but I can tell you that if you want to stop there are treatment programs out there that are free – check your local hospitals and public health centers, go on-line and look for smoking cessation classes in your community and see what they have to offer – I did a search and found over 100 free classes within 20 miles of my home (of course I live in a big city).
Ok, obesity and lack of exercise go together hand in hand, and changing these bad behaviors is extremely important in preventing. Coronary Artery Disease: It is common sense that if you don’t exercise you will gain weight and that if you gain weight you will find it hard to exercise. There are ways to get around the feeling that you can’t exercise or lose weight.
First, calculate how much you need to lose and set your goals realistically. It took a while for you to gain weight, don’t expect to lose it quickly. They say you should plan to lose 1-2 pounds per week on a healthy diet/exercise program. So how much do you need to lose? Most doctors use a total body fat indicator or the Body-Mass Index (BMI) to calculate your weight related risk factor.
A BMI within 18.9 – 24.9 is considered normal; a BMI of 25+ indicates an increased risk for Coronary Artery Disease. You can find a good BMI calculator at the website for the Center for Disease Control at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/index.htm they have a calculator for both adults and kids. (Note: Childhood obesity is currently a big issue in healthcare because it leads to so many future chronic diseases). Find out how much you need to lose, divide it by 2 and that’s about how many weeks it may take to get there. Then make a plan on how you are going to do it.
One plan I saw that worked for weight loss encouragement was a group of co-workers (10 total) who each put $50.00 in an “incentive pot,” whoever lost the greatest percent of body weight at the end of 3 months got all the money for new clothes (or whatever). It was so successful another department at the company started the same plan. Second, start slow and work up to a good ½ hour cardiovascular exercise routine at least 3 times a week. If you can, get into a cardio-vascular exercise program at the local community center, check your local hospital for free exercise classes, or get some friends together and create a walking club.
Third, it won’t do you any good to exercise if you continue to eat like you do. You know it, the sneaking of goodies when no one is looking, eating that extra slice of cake or a cookie, getting a meal that makes you almost explode after you’re finished because it was really TOO MUCH. Start by cutting down, you don’t have to cut everything out just ½ of the extras. You will be surprised at how fast the weight will drop off and how much better you will feel, after a while you won’t even crave the goodies as much. Try to eat foods high in proteins & vitamins and low in carbs & fats. Also try to eat smaller more frequent meals, but remember at the end of the day it is about how many calories you took in (eating) versus how many calories you spent (exercise).
And finally, always check with your doctor before you start your exercise program if you already have health concerns. The next category of Risk factors are known as controllable these are:
Hypertension/High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Abnormal Cholesterol Levels. The best way to prevent Coronary Artery Disease in this category is to be diagnosed and to control the disease. Many people walk around with borderline hypertension, undiagnosed diabetes, and abnormal cholesterol levels and they don’t even know it. These people if diagnosed early enough are still in the phase that the disease can be controlled with diet and exercise. In some cases they may never have to go on medications. If you are unable to control these diseases with diet and exercise, your doctor will put you on medication to keep you under control. These diseases if left uncontrolled lead to atherosclerosis as well as many other health related problems as well as greatly increasing your risk of a heart attack.
NON-MODIFIABLE RISK FACTORS:
These are the one’s you can’t do anything to change, but you should be aware of so you know if you have entered a higher risk area:
1. A family history of coronary artery disease– especially before the age of 50.
2. Age = 65+