How atherosclerosis is prevented?Smoking accelerates the development of atherosfclerosis, which often leads to coronary heart disease. Women who smoke are two to six times as likely to suffer a heart attack as nonsmoking women, and the risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day. The good news is that quitting dramatically cuts your risk, even during the first year, no matter
what your age.
Even slightly high blood pressure levels can double your risk. The desired blood pressure range, according to the American Heart Association is below 130/85, read 130 over 85. High blood pressure also increases your chance of stroke, congestive heart failure and kidney disease. High blood pressure can be treated very successfully with long-term medication. Commonly prescribed drugs include diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, beta blockers and calcium channel blockers (CCBs). Note: One type of CCB, fast-acting nifedipine, has been implicated as a cause of heart attacks. It is unclear whether other CCBs are also risky. Discuss the matter with your health care professional if you receive a CCB prescription. If your blood pressure is not too high, you may be able to control it entirely through weight loss (if you are overweight), regular physical activity and cutting down on alcohol as well as salt and sodium. Sodium is an ingredient in salt that is found in many packaged foods, carbonated beverages, baking soda and some antacids.
Reduce your cholesterol. Today, about a quarter of all American women have blood cholesterol levels high enough to pose a serious risk for atherosclerosis and heart disease. More than half of the women over age 55 need to lower their blood cholesterol. While the body needs cholesterol to function normally, it makes enough to meet all of its needs. However, too much saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat raises the level of cholesterol in the blood. Over a period of years, the extra cholesterol and fat in the blood may turn into plaque buildup inside your arteries. Cholesterol travels in the blood in packages called lipoproteins. Cholesterol packaged in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is often called "bad" cholesterol because too much LDL in the blood can lead to atherosclerosis. NHLBI reports that elevated LDL-cholesterol levels is a major cause of coronary heart disease and should be treated and managed aggressively to bring into desired ranges.
Keep triglycerides in check. The lipoprotein profile that determines your cholesterol levels also measures another fatty substance called triglyceride. Triglycerides are in the blood and in food. Produced in the liver, triglycerides are made up of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. The optimal target triglyceride level for individuals without heart disease or heart disease-related risk factors is less than 149 mg/dL, with 100 mg/dL being an ideal level. For most people, cutting back on foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol will lower both total and LDL-cholesterol. Regular physical activity and weight loss for overweight persons also will lower blood cholesterol levels. Losing extra weight, quitting smoking and becoming more physically active, also may help boost your HDL-cholesterol levels.
Reduce your homocysteine level. Homocysteine is an amino acid that is found normally in the body. Recent studies suggest that high blood levels of this substance may increase a person’s chances of developing heart disease, stroke, and reduced blood flow to the hands and feet. It is believed that high levels of homocysteine may damage the arteries, make the blood more likely to clot and/or make blood vessels less flexible.
Maintain a healthful weight. Obesity, especially a concentration of body fat around the waist, has been linked to unhealthy levels of HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Eat a healthy diet that is rich in vegetables and fruits. Avoid saturated and trans fats. Use monounsaturated (olive) and polyunsaturated (sunflower, safflower, peanut, canola) oils for cooking. Dietary protein should come primarily from fish and plant sources (soy, beans, legumes).