Creating a medical therapy plan for heart disease

food healthy

Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD or CAD) is caused by a buildup of “fatty” material called plaque in the blood vessels that provide crucial oxygen to the heart. Plaque builds up in size leading to a significant, usually more than 70 percent, blockage of the coronary artery. Occasionally the material can rupture, similar to a pimple, and the material under the thin cap will suddenly enter the blood and result in an acute “heart attack”.

Cardiovascular disease can lead to both unstable and stable angina, chest pain, shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat, or a heart attack.

In the October column, my colleague Dr. Richard Jacoby discussed how the treatment of CAD sometimes requires a heart catheterization to insert a stent to keep the artery open. While treatment might necessitate surgical intervention, such as with angioplasty, stent placement, coronary artery bypass graft surgery or off-pump coronary artery bypass surgery, research shows that lifestyle changes can prevent plaque buildup and lower a patient’s risk of developing heart problems.

Key lifestyle changes prescribed as part of medical therapy include adopting a heart healthy diet, reducing stress, losing weight, exercising, and quitting smoking.

These lifestyle factors are the basis of T. Colin Campbell’s well-known book, “The China study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health”.

The China Study examines the link between consuming animal products and developing heart disease – as well as cancers, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions. The China Study determined that a whole food and vegan diet reduces heart disease, and in some cases, reverses it. The results were found in people who eliminated animal products (beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, and milk) from their diet in addition to processed foods and refined carbohydrates.

Other lifestyle changes to consider include:

  • Eliminating the use of tobacco products

Smoking is directly related to an increased risk of heart attack and its complications. If you smoke, ask your doctor about counseling, nicotine replacement medications and programs to help you quit.

  • Lower high blood cholesterol

High-fat choices can contribute to increased fat in your blood, so it is important to follow a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.

  • Control high blood pressure

High blood pressure can damage the lining of your coronary arteries and lead to coronary artery disease. Be sure to check your blood pressure regularly.

  • Exercise

Exercise lowers cholesterol, manages weight, controls diabetes, and relieves stress. Check with your doctor first before beginning an exercise program.

  • Monitor body weight

Discuss your ideal weight with your doctor. Set a goal of a reaching a body mass index (BMI) of less than 30.

  • Chill out

Are you always stressed out? Do you anger easily? High stress levels and being hot-tempered increase blood pressure and have a negative effect on the cardiac system. Find ways to relax and learn to manage your time.

  • Manage diabetes

High blood sugars are linked to the progression of coronary artery disease. Control blood sugars with daily monitoring, a healthy diet, cardio exercise, and medications.

It is important to make lifestyle changes under the direction and supervision of your cardiologist because the physician will monitor progress and the progression of the disease.

Coastal Cardiovascular Care physicians are available to discuss your heart health care concerns through telemedicine and in-office appointments. Dr. Salman Mehboob is a general and interventional board-certified cardiologist with Coastal Cardiovascular Care, 700 Garden View Court, Suite 204, Encinitas, CA 92024. For more information call 760-452-6334 or go to