Coronary Artery Disease and Fitness

coronary artery disease

What are the Coronary Arteries?

I have worked as a Cardiovascular Technologist in a Cardiac Cath Lab for 2 years. We service people who have coronary artery disease (CAD), peripheral vascular disease (PVD) and people experiencing a heart attack or an “ST Elevated Myocardial Infarction (STEMI).

The heart has four main arteries that feed the muscle of the heart. The muscle of the heart requires oxygenated blood to fuel is contractions as the heart pumps blood through your body.

The arteries are:

  • Left Main (LM)
  • Left Anterior Descending (LAD)
  • Circumflex (Cx)
  • Right Coronary Artery (RCA)
arteries of heart
From WebMD

In simplest terms, these arteries are the pipes that make your heart work. Like any other pipe, when it gets blocked, bad things happen. In terms of our heart, when one of these “pipes” gets blocked, we lose blood flow to that area of the heart, and the area “infarcts” or the muscle starts to die (due to lack of blood flow).

That’s where we come in! The plumbers of the heart! There is a team of healthcare professionals that can unclog your coronary heart arteries using balloons and stents! The team usually consists of an Interventional Cardiologist (doctor), Cardiovascular Technologist (X-Ray tech in some states, licensed RCIS in others, usually scrubs in with MD) and Nurses.

The heart is your major organ, your engine. Keeping your heart healthy and all your arteries feeding the heart is very important! I have learned this through my two years in the Cath Lab, and feel scared at times when people under 50 enter my lab with disease. Your risk can be lowered!

What causes Coronary Artery Disease?

There are many documented reasons why someone would have coronary heart disease.

Some common reasons:

  • High blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels (a type of fat found in the blood)
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes and prediabetes
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Smoking
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Stress

A you can see from the list above, most of these areas we can control. Some risk factors outside of our control are Age, Gender and Family History of CAD.

While age, gender and family history are strong factors, they are overshadowed by the list above. The risk factors in our control far outweighs the ones we can’t control. If we begin to push ourselves out of the risk factors above at earlier stages in our life, things like age may not be as pertinent.

It has been documented time and time again at how the United States is slowly becoming more overweight and prone to chronic (yet avoidable) conditions. I urge people to not become the next statistic, and to overcome the mental mindset that you will never be “fit enough” and challenge yourself to be better.

Where does Fitness come in?

The American Heart Association suggest individuals perform moderate intensity workout for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. The benefits will not happen overnight, but along time will reap huge rewards against fighting off coronary artery disease.

Starting an exercise/fitness regiment can allow a person to become more motivated to be better in other aspects of their life. Perhaps their nutrition gets better. Just from that small start, we have attacked two things off the list above, Lack of Physical Activity and Unhealthy Diet. We are on our way to a better cardiovascular system and reducing our risk or coronary artery disease!

Along with the exercise and nutrition, perhaps our risk of becoming pre diabetic goes down..CHECK! Another risk factor is being tackled!

Exercising is a great stress relief! Go hard for 30 minutes and let all the mental anguish come out, and BOOM! You are happier and healthier!

How do I start?

It’s not easy walking into the gym on the first day of training, or motivating yourself to work out at home. I assure you that after you make the commitment that first time, it will get easier to peel yourself off the couch! The sweat and feeling of accomplishment you get from working out is unparalleled.

The first step would be to decide where/when you want to workout. Check out our blogs on the different kinds of fitness you can get into; Crossfit, Personal Training, Gym.

Your goal is unique and personal to you. Take the time to find what fits you! As always, you should consult your doctor to make sure you are able to start a fitness regiment.

I hope you have learned a bit more about your heart and coronary artery disease. I will continue to add blogs about how our body responds to exercise and how it can help us live healthier, stronger lives.


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