Coronary Artery Disease is largely caused by a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries, supplying the heart. At present, state-of-the-art treatment facilities are available for effective management of blockage caused by this deadly disease. But these methods in spite, of being aggressive and costly do not address the process of atherosclerosis and do not prevent the cause of disease. A common inquiry from the cardiologist treating the patients of coronary artery disease is regarding the reversal of the obstruction of coronary arteries. Patients wish to know if the disease could be reversed by any therapy or if there is any treatment, which could effectively prevent the deposition of fatty deposits in the susceptible population.
Most patients who suffer from this dreadful disease are not aware of its presence. In one study, it was found that as many as 60 to 85 per cent patients of heart attack or sudden death did not perceive any warning sign or symptom. Another significant inference had been that most of the heart attacks occur in patients who are suffering from merely mild atherosclerosis. Most of these fatal events are caused by rupture of a mild fatty deposit. Such mild atherosclerosis is common and by one estimate,20 to 40 per cent of United States middle-aged population is suffering from early atherosclerosis and are blissfully unaware of that. Indeed, greatest community benefit could be achieved by discovering methods to regress this early mild atherosclerosis or stabilizing the mild fatty deposits so that they do not rupture. This treatment also prolongs survival as an additional measure.
In recent years, it has been observed that atherosclerosis could be reversed by keeping blood cholesterol at an acceptable level and lowering intake of refined sugars as well as saturated and trans-fats. Adopting a healthy lifestyle by quitting smoking, effective stress management and regular exercise, may help in reversing atherosclerosis. Drugs which help in reducing an atherosclerotic burden on the vascular system are at hand. These drugs are known as statins and many angiographic clinical trials have demonstrated their effectiveness in reducing fatty deposits in the arteries of the body. The salutary effect of this is not the only reduction in the risk of heart attack, but also stroke, peripheral vascular disease, eye disease and kidney dysfunction.
Living longer with healthy heart:
The key to reversing heart disease is restraint. Making serious efforts to trade your eating habits for healthy arteries and a healthy old age, can give your heart and cardiovascular system a longer, healthier life. It is important to curtail those calories rich snacks with a high content of saturated and trans fats. Quitting smoking and alcohol and keeping a positive assertive attitude are the foundations of this approach. Lipid lowering drugs do have an important role to play in this regard and must be taken with recommendations from the doctor. The good news is that coronary-artery blockages are reversible and a healthy diet, drugs and a good exercise program – can reverse atherosclerosis.
(The writer Dr.Arun Kochar is a senior interventional cardiologist at Fortis Hospital)