What is coronary artery disease (CAD)?
CAD develops when deposits that contain cholesterol accumulate in the major blood vessels that deliver blood to your heart muscle. These deposits are known as plaque. When this plaque builds up, your arteries become narrow and less blood flows to your heart.
Choose exercises you enjoy
You don’t have to commit yourself to a lifetime of weightlifting and marathon training to lead a healthier lifestyle. If you don’t like to run, try a dance class or playing another sport you enjoy. If you don’t care for yoga or Jazzercise, choose the treadmill, take a brisk walk around your local park, or go for a run with your dog. You can also set up your exercise bike in front of the television and make an exercise date with your favorite characters. Make meaningful changes that you enjoy so that you’ll stick with them.
Changes to your diet
Pay attention to your diet because it affects your risk of:
Less low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol circulating in your blood translates to less cholesterol building up in your arteries. Many other factors are involved, but taking high cholesterol foods out of the equation adds up to a lower risk of CAD. When revamping your eating plan, consider the following:
Foods you should choose
Choose the following foods if you’re watching your cholesterol:
- plant-based foods, which are naturally free of cholesterol
- high-fiber foods, such as beans and whole grains
- olive oil
- certain fish, such as salmon, sardines, and trout, which contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
Foods you should limit
LDL cholesterol comes from meat and dairy products. You should limit your intake of the following:
- trans fats found in baked goods, including certain crackers
- whole milk
- sour cream
- fatty cuts of meat
- other sources of saturated fat
Play with spices, low-fat sauces, and condiments to keep flavor profiles interesting, but watch out for sodium in salad dressings, ready-made sauces, soups, and spice mixes.
How can you eat
Your diet should be low in fat and cholesterol, and it should also include a lot of vegetables and whole grains. Here are some ways to make sure it is:
- Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. If you don’t have time to prepare fresh vegetables, buy the low-sodium canned or frozen vegetables to avoid skipping them.
- Cut down on salt. Look for low-salt versions of the foods you enjoy, and add less salt to your food at the table.
- Choose whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta, and rice, and cook with whole grains like oatmeal and barley.
- Drive past the drive-through. Cutting out fast food like fries, burgers, breakfast sandwiches, and doughnuts is a great way to reduce your intake of saturated fat, which raises blood cholesterol.
What can you do to prevent coronary artery disease?
You can prevent CAD by making significant lifestyle changes, such as improving your diet and living an active lifestyle.
If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you quit. Smoking makes it harder and less enjoyable to exercise or participate in sports. It spikes your blood pressure and increases the likelihood that a dangerous blood clot may form.
If you haven’t been able to quit on your own, talk to your doctor or visit the local community health center. Many states offer programs to stop smoking that are funded by tobacco company settlements. Check online to see if these free or low-cost resources are available in your state.
Long-term benefits of healthy lifestyle changes
Not only will you feel more energy after making slight changes to your diet and getting more exercise, but you’ll also increase your longevity. The payoff will be a reduced risk of developing heart-related problems, including CAD. You’ll also see the following benefits:
- weight loss
- a leaner body
- lower blood pressure
- a better mood
- lower stress levels
- stronger bones
- a reduced risk of developing osteoporosis
- greater lung capacity
- more endurance