Mayo Clinic cardiologist Stephen Kopecky, M.D., answers the most frequently asked questions about coronary artery disease (CAD).

Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Kopecky, a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic. And I'm here to answer some of the important questions you may have about coronary artery disease.

Many small changes can lead to great benefit over time. Remember that nothing you do to improve your health is ever too little. And nothing you do to improve your health is ever too late.

Cholesterol is always involved in the initiation of the narrowing of the arteries to the heart. And every plaque or narrowing of your arteries contains cholesterol. It is essential to control the cholesterol in order to optimally lower your chance of a heart attack.

Yes. All the studies that have shown regression of arterial narrowing have done three things. First, take care of the obvious factors like high blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol. Second, address diet and physical activity. And third, help patients manage stress.

No. Half of the time, the first symptom a person has of coronary artery disease is actually a heart attack. And half of these heart attacks are fatal. So overall, for one out of four people, the first symptom is what we term sudden cardiac death.

No. Studies have shown that even if your cholesterol is well control with medicines, if you do not eat a healthy diet, your heart attack, stroke, and death rate is not significantly reduced.

Yes. Since your heart beats one hundred thousand times a day, even mild elevations of blood pressure above 130 over 80 can cause significant health problems, including heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.

I tell people they have a new part-time job called Your Health. In part of this is knowing what medicines you're on, what doses you're taking and why you're taking these medicines. Also very helpful, check your blood pressure regularly. Check your weight regularly at home. If any questions arise about your health, put them in your smartphone, so you'll have them the next time you have your visit with your doctor. Never hesitate to ask your medical team any questions or concerns you have. Being informed makes all the difference. Thanks for your time and we wish you well.

Feb. 10, 2022