Restoring Cardiovascular Health with Percutaneous Coronary Intervention

– The information has been reviewed by Dr. Lo Ka Yip, David

Many of us may find ourselves indulging in larger amounts of greasy, fried foods during holiday periods, though this generally does not impact our cardiovascular health if it does not become a long-term habit. However, regular consumption of foods rich in trans fats may put us at risk of elevated LDL cholesterol (or “bad” cholesterol) levels, which in turn increases our risk of coronary heart disease.

Dietary fats are categorized as monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, and trans fats. Both saturated and trans fats raise our total cholesterol. Eating excessive amounts of food rich in trans fats can prompt an increase in LDL cholesterol and higher risk of fat deposits developing within the blood vessels, which can then lead to heart attacks or ischemic strokes.

Some patients may develop chronic conditions where plaques form blockages. If an artery is over 70% blocked, blood flow to the heart may be reduced, causing symptoms such as chest pain, especially when the patient walks or exercises.

In this case, a patient may consider undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) – a procedure that is suitable for nearly 90% of patients. This minimally invasive treatment involves inserting a thin catheter through the wrist or inner thigh to reach the narrowed artery. A balloon is then inflated to expand the artery and a stent is placed to prevent the artery from re-narrowing. Patients may opt for local instead of general anesthesia, and are generally discharged from the hospital one to two days following the procedure.

After surgery, patients should adopt a healthy diet that is low in sugar, salt, fat, and free of trans fats. Foods high in fiber, such as fruits and vegetables, are also recommended, while regular exercise is crucial, especially when it comes to increasing HDL cholesterol (also known as “good” cholesterol) levels as this is less influenced by diet. Patients should aim for 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week and manage their stress levels to maintain their cardiovascular health.

Those with high cholesterol may also take medication to manage their cholesterol levels. A doctor will prescribe the appropriate type of medication depending on each patient’s risk of heart disease – if they already have cardiovascular disease or have had a stroke in the past, the LDL cholesterol level should be maintained at a lower level, such as 1.8 and below. Finally, to fully invest in their cardiovascular health, patients should also undergo regular blood tests to monitor their cholesterol levels.