Coronary heart disease (CHD), is a common form of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Coronary heart disease (CHD), also known as coronary artery disease (CAD) or ischemic heart disease, is a common form of cardiovascular disease (CVD).2
Ideally, blood vessels are soft and pliable to allow them to contract and expand as blood passes through. However, in people with CHD, a progressive thickening and hardening of the artery walls occurs (arteries are blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to all parts of the body). This thickening and hardening (atherosclerosis) is the result of a cascading build up of fat, cholesterol, immune cells, inflammatory cells, blood clot and other substances in the inner lining of the arteries; the build-up is called a plaque (or sometimes a lesion).
If the vessels to the heart get too clogged, the blood supply to the heart is reduced which can lead to symptoms such as angina. Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when a person's heart doesn't get enough blood. This pain can sometimes be experienced in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back, or may feel like indigestion. Ultimately this may lead to a heart attack.3
The symptoms of CHD may not be the same in women as they are in men. More often than men, women describe multiple symptoms, not just chest pain. Women are significantly more likely to report back pain, jaw pain, neck pain, nausea, and shortness of breath as well as reporting abdominal pain, nausea and fatigue more commonly.6
There are a variety of risk factors which can lead to the vessels to the heart becoming clogged and narrow. Behavioural risk factors (risk factors that you can reduce yourself by taking preventive action) are responsible for about 80% of cardiovascular disease.8
The main risk factors are raised cholesterol in the blood, raised blood pressure and smoking, others include:
Often there are no symptoms of underlying disease in a person's blood vessels, often a stroke or heart attack will be the first warning of underlying disease.8
It is therefore very important to reduce your risks by living a healthier lifestyle10:
There is evidence to suggest that some foods may lower the risk of CHD. Eating a balanced diet that includes plant foods such as wholegrain cereals, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables may decrease your risk.
|Oily fish||Mackerel, sardines, tuna and salmon (Containing omega-3 fatty acids)||Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve blood vessel elasticity and thin the blood, making it less likely to clot and block blood flow.|
|Some vegetable oils||Corn, soy and safflower (Containing omega-6 fatty acids)
Or canola oil or vegetable oils (Containing omega-3 fatty acids)
|Omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids can help lower cholesterol when used instead of saturated fats such as butter.|
|Fruit and vegetables||Fruit and vegetables contain antioxidants that offer protection against heart disease and also provide the body with folate which held lower the levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which appears to be linked to increased risk of heart disease.|
|Wholegrain cereals||Fibre contained in wholegrain cereals can protect against heart disease.|
|Unrefined carbohydrate sources with a low glycaemic index (GI)||Wholegrain breads and breakfast cereals, legumes, certain types of rice and pasta||Help to keep the blood glucose levels in check. This is particularly relevant to people with type 2 diabetes who may have chronically elevated blood glucose levels. Uncontrolled diabetes can damage the artery walls and contribute to CHD.|
|Legumes and soy||Soy protein has been shown to lower cholesterol levels.|
|Nuts and seeds||Small amounts of unsalted nuts and seeds||These should be eaten in small quantities as they are high in kilojoules.|
|Tea||Some evidence suggests that the antioxidants in tea can help prevent the build up of fatty deposits in the arteries.|
|Garlic||A compound in garlic called allicin has been found in some studies to lower blood cholesterol|
Last published: 4 June 2010
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