By: Seth Hays for Heart1
If healthiness is any indication of one’s luck, it seems that the Irish are getting even luckier over the past few years. But perhaps luck doesn’t have anything to do with a recent study’s reports of an almost 50 percent decrease in deaths caused by coronary artery disease from 1985 to 2000 in Ireland.
The following are simple lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of coronary artery disease:
Follow a regular exercise plan
Maintain your ideal body weight
Control high blood pressure
Control stress and anger
Eat a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol
Over that 15-year span, deaths from coronary artery disease - where the arteries that supply blood to the heart narrow and harden – in Irish people aged 25 to 84 fell by 47 percent according to a Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health study. That translates to 3,765 fewer deaths in 2000 as compared to 1985. But Ireland still has one of the highest death rates in Europe for the disease.
Coronary artery disease occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart begin to narrow and harden due to the build-up of plaque inside the artery. Eventually the heart suffers from a lack of sufficient oxygen that can cause angina (chest pain) and heart attacks.
The Irish study found that 44 percent of the observed decrease in mortality was due to medical and surgical treatments. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), aspirin and thrombolysis – the breakdown of clots – contributed the most to the decrease in the death rate whereas coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery and angioplasty – a procedure that uses a small balloon to widen the artery – only contributed 5 percent.
|Quick facts from the NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute:
Common symptoms of coronary artery disease are shortness of breath, chest pain or pain in the arms, shoulders, back, neck or jaw.
Every 29 seconds an American suffers from an event related to coronary artery disease.
Approximately every minute an American dies from coronary artery disease.
More significantly, changes in lifestyle have helped the overall decrease in mortality. Declines in the number of smokers, reduced cholesterol levels and healthier blood pressure levels contributed 48 percent to the decline in mortality. The study also cites overall improved eating habits in the general Irish population as being a contributor.
But some adverse trends might begin to offset these decreases. Increases in the prevalence of obesity, diabetes and inactivity in the population are having a negative effect.
The study used public health statistics gathered from hospitals and government agencies in Ireland and has public policy implications for the support of a 2004 workplace smoking ban.
Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Thirteen million people suffer from the disease according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) resulting in approximately half a million deaths annually.
The lifetime risk for coronary heart disease is 49 percent for men over 40 and 32 percent for women. Risk factors include a family history of heart disease diagnosed in a brother or father before the age of 55 and in a sister or mother before the age of 65. Other risk factors are obesity, high blood cholesterol and blood pressure, cigarette smoking, diabetes and physical inactivity.
The NIH recommends lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, including exercise, weight loss, stress reduction and changes in diet that reduce high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.