Coronary Heart Disease

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Coronary Heart Disease


Clinical studies, laboratory investigations and a number of surveys
show certain personal characteristics and life-styles pointing to increased
danger of heart attack (coronary heart disease). These danger signs are
called "risk factors". The well established risk factors are high
blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, cigarette smoking and diabetes
mellitus. Other factors that may increase or affect the risk for heart attach
are obesity, a sedentary life-style, an aggressive response to stress, and
certain drugs.

In the past two decades, millions of Americans have learned about these
risk factors and have tried to modify them favourable by seeking medical
attention and by changing life-style. Many adults have stopped smoking. The
medical control of high blood pressure has greatly improved. The average
cholesterol level of the population has decreased continually over the last
two decades, probably due to changes in dietary habits and increased

This attempt to modify risk factors almost certainly has contributed to
the declining death rate from heart disease in the United States. During the
1960's, U.S. death rates from heart disease were still rising, but today the
incidence from diseases of the cardiovascular system (including coronary
heart disease) has fallen dramatically. Overall, heart-related problems have
declined about 25 percent in the last decade. Some of this decrease
undoubtedly is due to better medical care of heart attack victims, but it is
likely that a sizeable percentage is related to modification of risk factors.

The entire population has become more aware of the seriousness of heart
disease and coronary heart problems. CPR training is offered in schools,
places of business, and church and community functions, and everyone seems to
recognise that prevention of coronary heart disease is a partnership between
the public and the medical community. These are a number of factors
implicated in coronary heart disease. Some of these may raise coronary risk
by accentuating the major risk factors already discussed. Others may act in
ways not understood. Still others may be linked mistakenly to coronary risk.

Obesity predisposes individuals to coronary heart disease. Some of the
reasons for this are known, but others are not. The major causes of obesity
in Americans are excessive intake of calories and inadequate exercise. When
caloric intake is excessive, some of the excess frequently is saturated fat,
which further raises the blood cholesterol. Thus, obesity contributes to
higher coronary risk in a variety of ways.

Most of the major risk factors are silent. They must be sought
actively, and much of the responsibility for their detection lies with each
of us as individuals. Regular check ups are particularly necessary if there
is a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol
levels or diabetes.

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