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Breaking down the most common cause of death globally

221941723_72b3e61d40_zIt's frightening to think that coronary artery disease is the most common cause of death globally. And it's scarier to think that few people likely know much about it. Who's at risk? How do you prevent it? How do you treat it? In a recent BeWell@Stanford interviewThemistocles Assimes, MD, PhD, answered some of these questions and more:

Risk factors for the development of CAD include older age, male sex, smoking, elevated blood pressure, diabetes, physical inactivity, and elevated bad cholesterol in the blood stream...

The most dreaded complication of CAD is a myocardial infarction, or "heart attack" — which occurs when the lining of a plaque inside the vessel breaks open and spills the contents of the plaque into the blood stream.

Fortunately, CAD is not a death sentence and can be treated. In the piece, Assimes explains the importance of helpful medications: blood thinners such as aspirin, which prevent clots from forming, drugs that lower blood pressure, and drugs that lower bad cholesterol. But more importantly:

The good news is that everyone can reduce his or her risk of CAD by maintaining a healthy weight and through regular aerobic exercise. These two lifestyle factors have beneficial effects on multiple risk factors. A diet that is low in saturated fats appears to decrease the risk of CAD, not only by making it easier to maintain a healthy weight, but also by reducing bad cholesterol levels in the blood stream.

Read the full Q&A for more helpful information on CAD.

Previously: A conversation about using genetics to advance cardiovascular medicine, Stumbling upon circadian rhythms and At Stanford Cardiovascular Institute’s annual retreat, a glimpse into the future of cardiovascular medicine
Photo by Brick Red

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