What Role Does Cholesterol Play in Coronary Artery Disease?

Since cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease, you’re doing the right thing by reading this blog post and learning more.

Approximately one in 20 adults aged 20 and older have CAD, which is an alarming figure and one that we want to address. Since CAD is such a clear and present danger, the team here at Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists wants to take a closer look at the primary culprit behind CAD — cholesterol.

Cholesterol and CAD

CAD is a condition in which the arteries that service your heart — your coronary arteries — have developed potentially dangerous plaque buildup.

To better understand this, we’re going to step back and discuss what plaque is and why it develops. Under normal circumstances, your blood flows through your blood vessels without issue, delivering nutrients, hormones, oxygen, and anything else your body needs.

One of the travelers in this vast system is a fatty, waxy substance called cholesterol. This substance is vital for many different functions, including producing hormones, making vitamin D, and protecting our cells. To make sure that the cholesterol is well-balanced, there are two different types:

  1. Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) that perform the duties we mention above
  2. High-density lipoproteins (HDLs) that cart off excess LDLs, so they don’t build up

Your body produces enough cholesterol for optimal function, but we add to, and skew, these levels through our diet, especially if the diet is heavy on animal byproducts, such as red meat.

As a result, many people have LDL levels that are too high and they don’t have enough HDLs to tackle the excess. When this occurs, the LDLs can build up in your blood and create plaques that line the walls of your blood vessels — in the case of CAD, the plaques line the arteries around your heart.

Our concern here is that not only does this hamper blood flow, but a plaque can break off and create a clot, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Unfortunately, most people only learn of their CAD after they’ve had a heart attack.

Improving your health through cholesterol management

Once the plaques form inside your coronary arteries, we can’t get rid of them, but we can effectively shrink them and reduce the threat of clots.

To address CAD, we can prescribe medications that block cholesterol production in your body (statins). In addition to these medications, it’s paramount that you make some changes in your lifestyle, namely improving your diet, exercising more, and quitting bad habits like smoking.

We understand that these are broad instructions, so we’re happy to sit down with you to develop a more personalized plan of attack to reduce your risks for CAD or to better manage existing CAD.

To get started, we invite you to contact our Mountain View, California office to set up an appointment.

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