LAWTON, OK (KSWO) –Experts say coronary artery disease is the most common form of cardiovascular disease.
"Coronary artery disease is still number one killer in our country," said Dr. Vijay Velury, a cardiologist at Comanche County Memorial Hospital.
The job of the coronary arteries is to provide the heart with blood and oxygen. But, when fatty deposits known as "plaque" build up and harden in these arteries, the amount of oxygen flowing is reduced and forces the heart to work harder. It's a process that starts very early in life.
"Even in people aged six to eight years, people have noticed that there is cholesterol plaque in the arteries," Dr. Velury said.
Over time, the hardening of arteries, or atherosclerosis, can weaken or damage the heart, resulting in what Dr. Velury calls unstable coronary syndromes.
"Where people can have increasing chest pains, or shortness of breath with or without exertion and also it can manifest as an acute heart attack," Dr. Velury said.
There are some risks that can increase a person's chance for developing coronary artery disease and the more you have, the worse it gets.
"Smoking is one of the big risk factors, we have diabetes, high blood pressures, high cholesterol, sedentary lifestyle," Dr. Velury said.
Dr. Velury says men are usually at a higher risk than women, but once females reach 40 years of age the chances are the same, and they continue to increase as people age. Genetics can also play a role.
Treatments range from procedures like an angioplasty to certain medications, but the first step is lifestyle changes in diet and exercise, and letting go of bad habits like smoking. This is especially important for anyone with coronary artery disease or risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure and family history.
Dr. Velury says coronary artery disease is a silent disease where symptoms may go unnoticed for years, so it's important to know your risk factors and continue regular checkups with your doctor.
In other Heart Month news, mark your calendar for the healthy heart screenings, which will be held on Feb. 29 and March 1 from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the Oakwood Conference Center. The free screening includes an electrocardiogram, heart risk assessment, waist circumference, height, weight and body mass test. For only $20, you can receive lab tests that include your A1C, good, bad and total cholesterol and triglycerides. To make an appointment, call 580-585-5406.
Another Good Hearted Woman luncheon will be held on Friday, March 4, at noon in the Oakwood Conference Center. The cost is $5 and cardiologist Dr. Ronald Woodson will be speaking about women and heart disease. To make a reservation, call 580-585-5406.