to accompany and give back hope

Parish Nursing Bulletin



Series on some major health problems: Part 3

Coronary Heart Disease: Top of the "Hit Parade"

Coronary heart disease (CHD) remains the leading cause of death in North America. CHD results when the arteries that bring oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle itself become clogged. The heart needs a constant supply of oxygenated blood in order to pump blood effectively throughout the body. Gradual narrowing of the coronary arteries (e.g. with cholesterol plaques) may result in temporary chest pain (especially during vigorous activity). Complete blockage of a small artery destroys the part of the heart muscle fed by that vessel (heart attack). One massive heart attack or repeated smaller attacks can lead to death. Although heart attacks are most common in the 50+ age group, the process of artery narrowing begins much earlier in life.

Risk factors include:
· Increasing age
· Family history of heart attack or CHD
· Current cigarette smoking
· Overweight/obesity
· Inactive lifestyle
· High blood pressure
· High blood cholesterol/trigylcerides
· Diabetes mellitus (Type I or Type II)

Signs & symptoms include:
· Fatigue, less tolerance for usual activity
· Shortness of breath on exertion
· Shoes (swollen feet) or rings (swollen hands) too tight
· Chest/neck/back/ left arm pain that occurs with activity but is relieved by rest
· Chest pain that occurs at rest/irregularly
· All above symptoms mean you should see your doctor promptly!
· Chest pain that radiates to back/neck/ left arm, and is NOT relieved by rest is a Medical Emergency - Call 911!
· Some people have NO SYMPTOMS until a major attack occurs
· People usually deny the possibility of heart attack. If you think someone you are with is having an attack, have him/her taken to Emergency.

Complications include:
· Permanently damaged heart
· Limited activity tolerance
· Increased risk of recurrent attacks
· Death

The good news is, there are ways to prevent or manage the disease such as:
· Reach/maintain a healthy weight
· Keep active/exercise daily
· Reduce/manage stress
· Stop smoking
· Take medications as prescribed for controlling blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol & triglycerides.


© 2009 Parish Nursing Ministry