Diseases and ConditionsHeart Diseases › Understanding coronary Heart Disease and Its Effects

Coronary heart disease (CHD) affects nearly 13 million Americans. More than 500,000 Americans die each year from CHD-related events, such as heart attacks. And many of these deaths occur in individuals who do not know they are at risk. It's important to realize you can have many of the risk factors for CHD, even if you aren't feeling sick.

For many years, physicians and patients alike have focused on LDL cholesterol as the cause of coronary heart disease. While cholesterol levels can be a risk factor for heart disease, nearly half of all coronary events occur in people who have low to moderate LDL cholesterol levels.

What is a Heart Attack?
The heart is constantly pumping blood containing oxygen and nutrients to all regions of the body. To do this, the heart requires its own blood supply and receives this blood through the coronary arteries. In CHD, fatty substances called plaques can build up in the wall of the arteries, which can reduce blood supply to the heart, and often causes a heart attack.

Recent studies have shown that many heart attacks may actually be triggered by inflammation. Inflammation can occur at the site of the plaque, making it unstable and prone to rupture. Inflamed plaques can suddenly break open, causing a blood clot to form. This clot can impede or completely block blood flow to the heart, resulting in a heart attack. This lack of blood supply can lead to damage of the heart muscle and even death.

The PLAC® test for Lp-PLA2 detects levels of an enzyme that increases this inflammation, leading to the formation of plaque that can rupture and cause heart attacks.

How You Can Determine if You are at Risk for CHD?
Understanding the risks of heart disease and making lifestyle changes can help most men and women live longer, healthier lives. Certain lifestyle modifications are now known to help reduce a person's risk for CHD.

Although there are some risk factors that you cannot change (such as age, gender and family history), there are many things you can do to positively influence risk factors. By knowing your risk of heart disease, you can take proactive measures to improve your lifestyle. It is important to remember that CHD can be prevented.

The PLAC Test Focuses on Your CHD Risk
In recent years, many advances have been made in pharmaceutical therapies that actually lower risk for CHD in appropriate patients. If your doctor determines that you are at risk for CHD for any reason, he or she may prescribe certain medications. It is important to follow your doctor's advice and continue to take your medications even if you do not feel sick. Your doctor can use the PLAC test to help determine if you are at risk for CHD, and take the necessary steps to reduce your risk if you have high test results.

(Source: American Heart Association)

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