Preventing Coronary Artery Disease

Manila Bulletin, July 5, 2004 | Go to article overview

Preventing Coronary Artery Disease


Byline: Dr. Eduardo G Gonzales

I am a 42-year-old accountant. I consulted a cardiologist several months ago after I have experienced occasional chest pains. After a thorough check up that included an ECG examination and echocardiography, I was told by my doctor that I have a mild form of coronary artery disease. To prevent the disease from getting worse and so that I dont develop a heart attack, I was given some medicines that I need to take regularly. In addition, I was told to stop smoking (I smoke one pack a day) and to stick to a low-fat, low-salt diet. I have been following my doctors prescriptions since. But isnt my wife making a big mistake with regards to our 12-year-old son? She has also imposed my diet on my son saying that it will keep our son from developing the heart disease that I now have. Isnt 12 years old too early to start on a dietary regimen that is designed to prevent heart disease? Philip A., Makati City

Twelve years is not a very early age to observe the measures that are designed to prevent coronary artery disease. In fact, the American Heart Association says that the dietary and lifestyle modifications that it recommends to prevent coronary artery disease can be applied to children who are as young as two years old. Hence, it is never really too early to prevent coronary heart disease. At the same time, it is never too late. The appropriate and dietary and other lifestyle guidelines in the prevention of the disease will, to varying extent, benefit people in all age groups. But they are most effective if followed from childhood.

Coronary artery disease occurs when the coronary arteries (the blood vessels that supply the muscles of the heart with oxygenated blood) get clogged because of deposition of cholesterol and other fatty materials in their walls much like the clogging of water pipes that happens when rust builds up int the inside of the pipes. When a coronary artery becomes completely clogged, the heart muscle cells that it supplies get deprived of oxygen causing them to die. This often leads to a heart attack or sudden stoppage of the heart.

The coronary arteries, however, do not completely clog overnight. The build-up of cholesterol and other fatty materials on the walls of these blood vessels is a progressive process that takes many years to complete. …

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