Heart attacks can seem sudden and out of nowhere, but many may be triggered by underlying coronary heart disease.
A heart attack is a big event, but for some, it could only be the first sign of a problem that has been building for a long time. Coronary heart disease (CHD), which is also known as coronary artery disease (CAD), is one of the most common types of heart disease in the U.S., according to the CDC.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), CHD is actually a result of CAD, although the terms are often used interchangeably. The disease is preventable and typically comes with some warning signs like chest pain, shortness of breath, and more.
It happens when blood flow to the heart is limited because of plaque growth caused by waxy cholesterol along coronary artery walls. It affects the large arteries on the surface of the heart, causing them to narrow over time.
The narrowing process, called atherosclerosis, can block some or all blood flow. The sudden rupture of plaque can also lead to a blood clot, according to the AHA.
More than 18 million Americans likely have the disease, which is the leading cause of death in the country.
It is never too early to start protecting against coronary heart disease. The first thing you can do is cut down on things like drinking and eating processed foods. If you smoke, do your best to quit.
Being more physically active is one of the biggest ways to help prevent the disease. Exercising at a moderate or vigorous intensity for at least 30 minutes per day can help, as does taking a 5-minute break from sitting every hour or so.
If you’ve never exercised before, talk to your doctor about starting an exercise routine.
You can also make some simple dietary swaps: swap out butter or margarine for olive or canola oil when cooking. Avoid using salt to season food and try other flavors, and include more fruit, vegetables, and nuts in place of snacks, starchy sides, and sugary foods,