Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is treatable, but there is no cure. This means that once diagnosed with CAD, you have to learn to live with it for the rest of your life. By lowering your risk factors and losing your fears, you can live a full life despite CAD.
You may have been living with Coronary artery disease much longer before you realised it. It isn’t uncommon to be diagnosed with CAD after having suffered a heart attack or after months of having symptoms such as chest pain, numbness or tightness. Coronary Artery Disease brings along with it fear and anxiety due to its close association with heart attacks. However, recent advances in medicine, interventions and surgery, along with patient willingness to make lifestyle changes, have greatly decreased the mortality and morbidity associated with CAD and cardiac disorders. Medications and risk reduction practices such as quitting smoking, following diet restrictions, regular exercise and management of stress make it possible to lead a near-normal life with coronary artery disease.
Once you have a cardiac event like a heart attack or a stroke, your life expectancy decreases. Each time it takes a little more out of you and makes it harder to come back to normal. That being said, if you make all the necessary changes and wholeheartedly adopt a healthy lifestyle, you can live a full and long life.
Taking Care of Your Heart
By simply controlling the risk factors for CAD and by being fit, it is possible to prevent a cardiac event if you are diagnosed with coronary artery disease. Lifestyle changes and medications help maintain a good quality of life as well as an improved rate of survival.
Even a single cigarette or cigar can be a trigger for a heart attack in an at-risk person. Quitting smoking ( all forms of tobacco) is the biggest game-changer in people with CAD.
A cardiac diet, an unofficial term for a heart-healthy diet will help boost your recovery and when coupled with regular exercise, is sure to keep you living healthy for longer. This diet focuses on plenty of nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, along with lean meat and whole grains. Excess of salt, sugar, trans-fats and saturated fat is avoided.
Include food items with soluble fibre such as oats, beans, berries and flaxseed. Soluble fibre helps reduce cholesterol and manage better sugar levels. Omega-3 fatty acids help in reducing plaque formation, decreasing blood pressure, help control triglyceride levels and reduce the risk of arrhythmias.
Although you may be prescribed omega-3-fatty acid supplements, it is advisable to consume foods rich in the same as well. These include salmon, tuna, Chia seeds, flaxseed and walnuts.
When it comes to exercising, always choose an aerobic activity such as walking, cycling, swimming, or light jogging, five to seven times a week. Make sure you stretch or warm up your muscles before and after exercising for at least five minutes.
Enrolling yourself into cardiac rehabilitation as soon as you are diagnosed helps you stay on track towards a healthy lifestyle. Risk of a second heart attack or mortality in cardiac patients is reduced by up to 30% among those who have completed a cardiac rehabilitation programme.
This programme helps you eat right, teaches you to quit smoking, reduce stress in your daily life, take your medications regularly and exercise properly to improve your strength and endurance without putting too much strain on your heart. Being in a programme also helps cope with the anxiety and depression that may accompany all these sudden changes that you are required to make.
A rehabilitation programme is known to benefit cardiac patients by:
- Decreasing the frequency and severity of angina
- Lowering cholesterol, LDL levels and lowering blood pressure
- Reducing body weight
- Reducing the incidence of depression
- Reducing cardiac hospitalisations
- Reducing the need for medications
Gaining the Confidence to Move On
Once you have recovered from a heart attack or are diagnosed with CAD, it is appears hard to lead a normal life, and you feel you have to tip-toe over everything for the rest of your life. Once you’re given the green signal by your treating Cardiologist, there is no reason to put your life on hold, and you can slowly resume your daily activities at a pace you find comfortable.
There is no way to get rid of CAD or cure it, you just have to modify your life, so it doesn’t get worse. That being said, once you interact with other people who have adopted similar lifestyle modifications and feel yourself being healthier, following this new path isn’t so hard. Many find that they become fitter and more energetic after starting new way of life. Fighting your fears is most important to gain your confidence back, and it helps to have other people with similar experiences to talk to, so you don’t feel like you are all alone.
Dr. Srikanth K V | Consultant, Cardiologist – Cardiology – Adult, Heart Transplant | Narayana Institute of Cardiac Sciences, Bommasandra