Author: Endonita Hajzeraj
It is almost impossible to find someone that hasn’t heard about or been affected by coronary artery disease (CAD). After all, coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death for American men and women. Sounds depressing, but this blog will help all those who read it understand what coronary artery disease is and what risk factors contribute to it’s progression. Coronary artery disease develops when major blood vessels that supply your heart with blood, oxygen, and nutrients becomes damaged or diseased. CAD can be caused by many factors, and all of these factors can build up on each other to create further damage to the arteries leading to CAD. The major risk factor associated with CAD is the cholesterol-containing deposits, called plaque, that builds up in your arteries and causes inflammation. When plaque builds up, they narrow your coronary arteries, decreasing blood flow to the heart, eventually leading to chest pain, heart attack, shortness of breath, and other coronary artery disease signs. Although cholesterol is deemed as the “culprit,” there are a lot of factors that can contribute to plaque buildup. Because coronary artery disease often develops over decades, you might not notice a problem until you have a significant blockage leading to chest pain or a heart attack. The good news is, there’s a lot that can be done to prevent and treat coronary artery disease.
Under normal conditions, there is oxidative stress that cells incur because of natural chemical processes that produce reactive oxygen species. Oxidative stress is the imbalance between the free radical, which are unstable molecules that cause damage, and the molecules that we have that counteract their effects. Lifestyle choices like smoking and eating unhealthy foods can cause oxidative stress to a point where the cells are not able to overcome this stress and they become damaged and die. This damage of cells can cause harm and thus further progress the beginning of a disease.
Traditionally, we associate coronary artery disease with cholesterol. The buildup of plaque that was mentioned above is the aggregation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL). There are two main types of cholesterol that we make, high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein. Lipoproteins are made of fat and proteins and LDL is known as the “bad cholesterol” because it takes cholesterol to your arteries, where it may collect in artery walls. We produce about 80% of cholesterol in our bodies to stay healthy. The other 20% comes from the food we eat. Without cholesterol we would not survive, but nothing without moderation is ultimately good. With that being said, too much cholesterol in your arteries will lead to a buildup of plaque and this buildup will cause oxidative stress on cells, furthering the progression of the disease.
Another factor that can contribute to the development of CAD are genetic predispositions. Although CAD is highly preventable, sometimes it just runs in your family, which puts you at a higher risk for developing the disease. Genetic factors contribute to the risk of CAD, and in the past decade, there have been major progress in the area. Genetic variations and mutations can occur that disable or enable certain proteins in the progression of CAD. Most people understand the concept of inheriting certain diseases and coronary artery disease risk can increase based on inheritance. A study revealed that individuals who had at least one biological parent with CAD had a 40-60% higher risk for developing it themselves. Impact of genetics on our lifestyle is always prominent. Not only does familial genetic predispositions cause an increase in CAD development, but familial hypercholesterolemia also plays a role in the prevalence of CAD. Family hypercholesterolemia mutation status indicates positive signs of CAD development. Unfortunately, sometimes even the seemingly healthiest people can have familial predispositions to disease. However, there are many things that people can do to prevent CAD from developing.
I know, people might read everything I have written on this blog and probably still do whatever they want. Lifestyle choices are very important in preventing many diseases, not just CAD. Although CAD is a fatal disease with no known cure, it is highly predictable, preventable, and treatable. Healthy lifestyle choices are important to prevent CAD. Does this mean we can’t enjoy ice cream occasionally? Absolutely not! This means that we can enjoy all things in moderation and try to cut out things that don’t have health benefits. For example, one of the largest modifiable risk factors for CAD is cigarette smoking. The result of smoking causes an increase in oxidation of LDL, which causes stress on the cells. Other conventional risk factors include diabetes, poor diet, hypertension, and obesity. All of these lifestyle choices lead to oxidative stress, and therefore damaging healthy cells into diseased ones.
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