Coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in America, is the clogging of the arteries that supply the heart with blood. It's caused by excess cholesterol and other debris that
builds up inside the vessels, reducing blood flow. When your heart
doesn't receive the oxygen-rich blood it needs, you may experience
chest pain known as angina (ann-JYE-nuh), or even have a crippling or
fatal heart attack. Many factors determine your risk for heart disease.
Some are unchangeable, such as being a man over age 45, or having a
family history of early heart attacks. However, the majority of risk
factors are within your control. These include smoking; lack of
exercise; a diet high in saturated fat; being overweight, especially around
the abdomen; and having high blood pressure or uncontrolled diabetes.
Your risk also increases if you have a total cholesterol level above 200,
with less than 35 milligrams per deciliter of 'good,' or HDL, cholesterol.
Another important predictor for heart disease is the level of the amino
acid, homocysteine, (hoe-moe-SISS-teen) in your blood. Homocysteine
levels can often be reduced by eating foods rich in folic (FOE-lick) acid and other B vitamins.
When coronary heart disease is severe, open heart surgery or other
procedures may be required. It's much easier to prevent heart disease
than reverse it, so the sooner you incorporate heart-healthy habits into
your lifestyle, the better. For more information, consult a healthcare