Intermountain Healthcare

Identifying and Lowering Risk of Coronary Artery Disease


Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 07/20/2021 --Coronary artery disease is a narrowing of the coronary arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease, affecting around 17 million Americans. It's the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S.

Unfortunately, many people don't know they have CAD until the disease is fairly advanced. The first sign of the disease is often chest pain (angina) or a heart attack. Even with rapid treatment, advanced CAD can lead to heart failure and arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).

Dr. James Feeney from Intermountain Healthcare Cardiology and a cardiologist at Intermountain Utah Valley Hospital, said despite these scary facts, most people can live full and rewarding lives with heart disease. "The keys are paying attention to your symptoms, getting good medical care — and taking care of yourself."

Coronary artery disease is usually caused by a process called atherosclerosis that occurs when fat, cholesterol, and other substances build up in the coronary arteries. This buildup, often called plaque, irritates and scars the arteries, causing them to become hard and thick.

"Unfortunately, many people don't know they have CAD until the disease is fairly advanced. At this point, you may experience angina (chest pain) or a heart attack," said Dr. Feeney. For that reason, he said it is important to understand your risk, and be screened for risk factors, including:

High Blood Pressure -- Many people have high blood pressure (also called hypertension) without knowing it. That's why it's sometimes called "the silent killer." If you don't detect and treat high blood pressure, it greatly it increases your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

High Cholesterol -- High cholesterol means an HDL level that is too low and/or an LDL level or total blood cholesterol that is too high. By itself, high blood cholesterol doesn't cause any symptoms. This means many people are unaware they have this cardiac risk factor. If you are over the age of 20, you should have your cholesterol levels checked at least once every 5 years.

Necessary Lifestyle Changes -- Certain life-style changes can also slow the progression of heart disease, including: maintaining a healthy weight, being active, making healthy food choices and quitting smoking.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight -- If you have a lot of excess weight from body fat, you're more likely to develop heart disease. This is true even if you have no other risk factors. Excess body fat hurts your heart by putting extra strain on your heart muscle, raising cholesterol and blood pressure, and increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Being Active -- Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease. Many studies have confirmed that people who don't get regular exercise are more likely to develop heart disease. People in this group are also more likely to have other cardiac risk factors such as high blood pressure, excess weight, and diabetes. ALL exercise adds up to a healthier heart. Even small increases in daily activity can reduce your risk of heart problems.

Make Healthy Food Choices -- It can be difficult to get your portions just right for a balanced, heart-healthy meal. Half your plate should be fruits and vegetables, a fourth of your plate whole grains, and a fourth of your plate lean sources of proteins. When we structure our plates this way, we ensure our meals are balanced and have variety.

Quit Smoking -- You already know that smoking damages your lungs and increases your chance of developing dangerous lung diseases. You might have also heard that smoking is bad for your skin and eyes. But did you know that smoking can also hurt your heart? It can speed the buildup of fatty plaque in your arteries and increase the strain on your heart and your risk of blood clots. The time to quit is now. Stay committed and be smoke free.

For more information to lower your risk and prevent potential disease, click here or see your personal care provider.

About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 25 hospitals, 225 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,600 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For updates, see