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Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a condition where plaque filled with cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels of the heart. As a result, your heart does not get enough blood flow and oxygen, which leads to a variety of conditions ranging from angina to heart attacks. The biggest risk factors for developing CAD are smoking, diabetes and family history. Hypertension, high cholesterol levels and poor lifestyle habits, like lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet, are also risk factors.

The best treatment of CAD is prevention. Quit smoking, control your diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. You want your LDL (bad cholesterol) to be low, and you want your HDL (good cholesterol) to be high. This can be achieved with diet, exercise and medications.

Symptoms of CAD can be vague. Chest pain is the most common symptom, but it can also present as jaw pain, neck pain, arm pain, back pain, shortness of breath or fatigue. Early recognition is key. Contrary to popular belief, women over 55-years-old carry a higher risk than men of the same age. The risk in younger men is higher than in older men.

There are various ways to treat CAD. Medications, lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, controlling your diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as stents or bypass surgery. A stent is a device that looks like the spring of a ballpoint pen, which keeps arteries open. These are life-saving in situations of a heart attack. Nowadays, open heart bypass surgeries are reserved for extensive blockages in multiple areas of the heart, and/or when the blockage is in a critical part of the heart, which is not suitable for a stent.

The latest in stent technology is bioabsorbable stents, which disappear after their job of keeping the arteries open is done. These are currently being used by myself and other Michigan Heart physicians. If you have questions about CAD, please talk to your primary care physician or cardiologist.

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If you think you have high blood pressure and want to check your blood pressure often, those free machines at local pharmacies are tempting. But just how accurate are they?

There are two types of blood pressure monitors. The first is the one you’re probably most familiar with, manual blood pressure monitors. These consist of an arm cuff, squeeze bulb, gauge and a stethoscope. This is most likely what your doctor or nurse practitioner uses when you go into the office for a visit.

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This time of year is primed for turkey, pumpkin pie and cookies. We often spend as much time baking cookies as we do shoveling snow. So how do you work in a workout? Good news! Some common winter activities can double as workouts. So gather the family and be prepared to work up a good sweat:

Shoveling snow. This necessary evil in winter can help you burn more than 250 calories an hour. Just make sure you’re lifting with your knees, not your back, and using an ergonomic shovel to minimize stress on your back.

Sledding. Remember how tired you got as a kid running up the hill with your sled in hand? Try it as an adult. You’re guaranteed to have fun heading down the hill at top speeds, and if you last for 30 minutes you’ll burn about 200 calories.

Ice skating. You don’t have to be as skilled as Nancy Kerrigan or as agile as Brian Boitano. Just 30 minutes of light skating will burn upwards of 200 calories.

Playing in the snow. Building a snowman, snow angels and snowball fights have always been winter classics, but did you know they also help you burn calories? If you play in the snow for at least an hour you can burn between 200-350 calories.

Skiing and snowboarding. If you’re looking for a more intense workout, while still being outside in the snow, skiing and snowboarding is your best bet. Depending on your fitness level, and your skills, you can burn upwards of 300 calories per hour.

Make sure to bundle up, stay hydrated and have fun.

This article was originally published on December 20, 2014, and was updated on December 12, 2016.