This is a scene that takes place in my office every day, says Dr. Crandall. I’ve just told a patient that he or she has heart disease. The patient always looks at me hopefully and says: “But you can fix it, can’t you?”
Well, the answer is “yes” — but usually not in the way the patient thinks. Too often, they expect that stenting (widening the coronary artery and inserting a brace to keep it open) or cardiac bypass surgery (the creation of alternative vessels that increase blood flow to the heart) will solve their problem. But it’s not that easy.
If you are told you have coronary artery disease, it means you have a condition known as atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This gradual narrowing of your coronary arteries began years ago.
While implanting a stent to widen arteries, or performing surgery to create alternative blood flow can prevent a heart attack in the short term, those are only temporary measures. They will do nothing to halt the relentless progression of atherosclerosis.
Such cases are not hopeless, however. There are things people can do over the long term to reverse heart disease and dissolve potential heart-attack causing blockages. Stenting and bypass surgery are measures that buy you that time, but the true “fix” for coronary artery disease comes with living a heart healthy lifestyle.
This means losing weight, exercising, and exchanging unhealthy eating habits for meals
comprised of fresh, whole fruits, vegetables, and grains. Patients who take this advice no longer live in fear of heart disease, and they feel better and healthier than they have in years.
These kinds of myths have shaped our thoughts on heart disease for a long time. They are deeply rooted, so it will take conscious effort on your part to learn to think differently about heart health. But in time, healthy practices and ways of thinking will take hold and translate into a new, heart-healthy lifestyle.
And practicing these heart-healthy habits will change your life for the better.
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