Progression of Coronary Heart Disease

By Hans Diehl, M.D.

Coronary heart disease occurs in stages and takes time to develop. Plaques that cause narrowing of less than 70% of the diameter of the artery rarely cause symptoms of heart disease. However, as the plaques grow in thickness, and calcification (hardening) takes place, the diameter of the artery increasingly narrows and the individual usually develops symptoms of heart disease. Increased demands on the heart for blood flow may result in a reduced tolerance for exercise, and symptoms of angina. As coronary heart disease progresses to late stages, blood flow is limited causing lack of oxygen to the myocardium (heart muscle). Eventually the heart muscle cells die from lack of oxygen, and a heart attack results.


Although this figure illustrates atherosclerosis (plaque build-up) by age, actual build-up is dependent on many health factors. Improper lifestyle choices may result in the obstruction of the arteries at early ages.

What Is The Best Approach To Stop The Progression Of Coronary Heart Disease?

It is always better to prevent than to repair. But if heart disease has developed, as suggested by the presence of coronary risk factors and documented by diagnostic tests, it still isn't too late to make lifestyle changes. You can actually clean out your arteries, lower your risk of dying of atherosclerosis (plaque build-up) and extend your active, productive years. You can markedly change your risk factors no matter how old you are, often in just a few weeks.

Start with healthful, home-cooked meals that are very low in fat and cholesterol, yet high in unrefined complex carbohydrates and fiber. Such a diet can levels lower cholesterol by 20 to 30 percent and reverse many cases of diabetes in less than four weeks. When combined with salt restriction, this diet will also help normalize blood pressure and control obesity.

Begin An Active Daily Exercise Program.

If Americans would at least lower their cholesterol to below 180mg% and their blood pressures to under 125 mmHg and quit smoking, it has been estimated that 82 percent of all heart attacks before age 65 could be prevented. These simple changes in lifestyle would do more to improve the health of our nation than all the hospitals, surgeries, and drugs put together.

The Framingham Study: The Framingham Heart Study, begun in 1948 and still in operation after 60 years, under the direction of the National Heart Institute (now known as the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)—embarked on an ambitious project to identify the common factors that contribute to coronary heart disease. William Castelli, M.D., the former director of the famous Framingham Heart Study said: "People in the Framingham study with cholesterol levels below 150 mg% were virtually immune to heart attacks.”


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