Coronary heart disease facts

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Updated: 4/11/2007 5:47 pm
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 professional.
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