What lifestyle changes will I have to make with Coronary Artery Disease?

The answer to what lifestyle changes you will have to make with coronary artery disease depends on what risk factors you have. The risk factors for coronary artery disease are divided into three categories. Ones you can change, ones you can control and ones you cannot do anything about.

The risk factors that you can change are:

1) Obesity: Your weight related risk factor is derived from your Body-Mass Index (BMI), which is an indicator of total body fat. A good BMI calculator is on the website for the Center for Disease Control at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/index.htm. You may need to join a weight loss group or clinic – although you might not want to your life may depend on it.

2) Lack of Exercise: Check with your doctor before you start your exercise program if you already have health concerns. Start slow and work up to a good cardiovascular exercise routine at least 3 times a week.

3) Excess Stress: Stress reduction and stress management classes are offered at multiple settings, check with your doctor or the local hospital to see what they offer.

4) Smoking Tobacco: Contact your local hospital or the American Heart Association for smoking cessation programs – often they are FREE.

The risk factors that you can control but not change are:

1) High blood pressure/Hypertension: Get your blood pressure checked! Many people do not even know that they have hypertension because there are no early signs or symptoms. The cause of hypertension is not fully understood but your doctor will most likely encourage you to lose weight, stop smoking and exercise (sound familiar?). Your doctor will prescribe medications to help keep your blood pressure under control.

2) Diabetes: Poor control of diabetes leads to coronary artery disease as well as many other neurological and vascular problems. If you are diabetic you should be under the medical advice of an endocrinologist to prevent fluctuations in blood glucose levels and the risk of a diabetic crisis.

3) Abnormal Cholesterol levels: Specifically this means four different tests: Total Cholesterol, LDL Cholesterol, Triglycerides, and HDL

Cholesterol. If you haven't had your cholesterol levels checked, see your doctor. High LDL cholesterol levels are the best indicator of increased risk of heart disease. Much of your cholesterol level is predetermined by your family history but it is also about what you eat. Cholesterol levels can be managed with diet and lipid lowering medications. Your doctor will work with you to find the right medication for you.

The risk factors that you cannot change or control are:

1) Family history– especially if younger than 50

2) Male

3) Age = 65+

4) Menopause or other factors causing loss of estrogen

Ok, I hope this helps you determine if you are at risk for Coronary Artery Disease. If you think you are, see a doctor, go to a clinic, do something to start to change your bad habits and get healthier before it's too late.

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