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Friday, December 10, 2010

Coronary Artery Disease and Good Nutrition

by Jim Duffy

Everyone should remember from their basic anatomy lessons that their arteries are the blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrients to the heart and then throughout the entire body. However, some of the foods that we eat as well as some of our other bad habits can lead to damage and/or disease to these arteries, which makes it hard for them to function the way that they should.

The most common cause of this disease is fatty deposits inside of the artery called plaque that work to narrow the arteries so they do not allow enough blood to flow into the heart. It is actually this diminished blood flow that causes the symptoms that alert us to possible problems. These symptoms include angina (chest pain) and shortness of breath. The plaque can continue to grow until the artery is completely blocked, which could in time cause a heart attack.

The plaque can accumulate for years, even decades, without producing many symptoms and can even go completely unnoticed until there is a heart attack, which makes it important to prevent coronary artery disease from happening rather than trying to treat it once it has started. The best way to prevent coronary artery disease is by committing to a healthy lifestyle.

Alex is 68 years old and retired from a job he worked for more than 30 years. He has never been a big fan of going to the doctor, convinced that that the only thing that the doctor's treat is what he calls "full walletitis." He is also convinced that the drug companies and the doctors are all in cahoots so that they can sell expensive pills to people who may not really need them. He has had high blood pressure for years but stopped taking the meds because of the cost. The last checkup he actually went to also revealed high blood cholesterol levels and diabetes, both of which are known risk factors for coronary artery disease. He is slightly overweight but not obese, which is also a risk factor.

One day Alex wakes up and feels different but is not able to tell exactly how. As the day progresses however, he starts to feel worse. By late afternoon, he has severe pressure in his chest with a pain that is traveling down his arm as well. He is short of breath and sweating when he finally calls for an ambulance. He is rushed to the nearest hospital where it is discovered that he is having a heart attack. He is lucky, this time. The heart attack was relatively minor and there is no major damage done to the heart itself. But now the doctors can see the extent of the coronary artery disease that contributed to this heart attack and Alex will have to make some big changes to his lifestyle.

Risk Factors and Causes for Coronary Artery Disease

A survey of the risk factors and causes should have been a wake up call to Alex long before his heart attack. Not only does he have high blood pressure that he stopped treating as directed and high cholesterol, but he is also a cigar smoker as well. At 68, Alex has entered a higher risk category for this disease and he should have known that he was at greater risk simply by being a man. His family history is also filled with heart disease and stroke, including his father who had his first stroke at the age of 65 and his first heart attack two years later. After leaving his job, Alex has been pretty sedentary, content to go out and feed the birds once a day and then come back in to listen to sports talk radio and read the newspaper or watch television. There are several other possible risk factors for developing coronary artery disease including:

- C-reactive protein: This compound is produced in the liver in response to injury, infection or inflammation in the body. There are several things that can cause this inflammation to occur, including a poor diet filled with fatty foods that irritate the system.

- Homoscysteine: This amino acid is used to build and maintain tissue, however excessive levels in the body can lead to coronary artery disease or other forms of cardiovascular disease.

- Fibrinogen: This is a protein in the blood that plays a role in blood clotting. Too much of this protein can cause clumping of the platelets, which in turn can lead to a blood clot in the artery.

- Lipoprotein: This is a substance that forms when low density lipoprotein particles become attached to a certain and specific protein, which disrupts the body's ability to dissolve blood clots.

(Source: The Mayo Clinic)

Not only does coronary artery disease lead to possible heart attacks, it can also lead to heart failure, chest pains (also called angina) and abnormal heart rhythms, which can also lead to heart attacks.

Following his heart attack and his subsequent diagnosis, Alex has been instructed to make several changes in his lifestyle. First and foremost, he needs to control his high blood pressure and his stress levels. He will need to take his medications as directed for not only this condition but for the others that have contributed to his development of coronary artery disease. In addition, he is instructed to get more physical exercise and to eat a healthy and balanced diet that is low in sodium and fat and is high in fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and lean protein sources. He is also strongly urged to stop smoking.

His weight is not far from the normal range so the doctors are not as concerned with him gaining weight; they are more concerned with him getting adequate nutrition from a variety of healthy food sources so that he can rebound from this incident and continue on with a healthy and full life for many more years to come.

One of the changes that Alex is going to be making in his diet is the method that he uses to cook foods. Instead of frying foods, he will learn to make nutritious meals that taste good by using other means such as baking, roasting, or grilling so that he gets the flavor but not the fat. He will also learn to use flavorful ingredients so that he does not have to rely on added salt for taste. Instead of eating a lot of red meat such as pork or beef, he will substitute leaner protein choices such as turkey and salmon and will also get a lot of his protein from plant sources including soy and soy products, which have been shown to have heart healthy benefits.

In addition to these changes, he will be including Profect, a liquid protein supplement from Protica in his diet as a between meal snack. It is only 2.9 fluid ounces in size so he can open it and consume it in seconds and then not have to think about being hungry for a while, which is helping keep him away from his weakness - chocolate chip cookies - especially in the late afternoon when he is feeling a little tired. Profect gives him 25 grams of protein, which keeps him feeling full, and has only 100 calories so it does not put him over the count the doctor set for him.

About the Author:

Protica Research (Protica, Inc.) specializes in the development of Capsulized Foods. Protica manufactures Profect, IsoMetric, Pediagro, Fruitasia and over 100 other brands, including Medicare-approved, whey protein drinks for immunodeficiency patients. You can learn more at Protica Research - Copyright

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