Health Matters: Preventing Coronary Artery Disease

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Every six months, Baptist Health cardiologists monitor Patricia Robinson's heart.

The 62-year-old was diagnosed with coronary artery disease five years ago.

"I was having chest pains, shortness of breath, and uncontrollable high blood pressure," says Robinson.

Since then, Patricia has been taking a nuclear stress test. 

In some cases, the signs Patricia experienced go unnoticed.

Dr. Joe Hargrove says 50 percent of men and 75 percent of women who die of heart disease had very little to no symptoms. 

"Coronary artery disease starts early, tends to be associated with elevated cholesterol. Family history plays an important role," says Hargrove.

Dr. Hargrove says coronary artery disease happens over time. Cholesterol plaques build up in the arteries of the heart, preventing blood flow, but this isn't something that just occurs in later years. 

"That's a misconception because young people can have heart disease, in fact the youngest patient we've put a stint in, in this office, is 23 years old," says Hargrove.

Treatments vary. In Patricia's case, she's on medication. She also made changes to her diet and added exercise to her routine.

"I have an app on my phone and it tells me how many miles that I've walked," Robinson says.

The Step Tracker keeps her accountable to reach at least three miles a day. 

Teaching Pre-K also keeps Patricia on her feet. 

Her advice?

"Don't wait until the last minute to get checked out," says Robinson.

She didn't wait because she knew she had a family history of high blood pressure. 

Dr. Hargrove says in the last 50 years, we've seen a decrease in coronary artery disease cases as a result of aggressive treatment and lifestyle changes. 

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