Coronary artery disease, which can be more generally referred to as heart disease, is currently the number one killer in the United States. With this disease, plaque collects and grows in the arteries that supply blood to the muscles of our heart. As the plaques increase in size, blood flow to the muscles of our heart decreases, which is referred to as ischemia. Significant ischemia can lead to heart attacks and decreased output of the heart. If the plaque is large enough that it ruptures, clotting can occur, which can cause strokes. What many people don’t know is that this condition is largely preventable by living a healthy, active lifestyle.

Does this mean you need to exercise for hours each day? Absolutely not. However, there are several known risk factors of coronary artery disease that, when managed, can decrease your chances of ever developing this condition. Risk factors that you can control are listed below:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Stress

It is true that exercise can help mitigate many of these risk factors, including blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and stress. Starting with just 10 minutes of exercise per day is enough to make moderate changes to these risk factors listed above. If you are able to progress to 30 minutes of activity per day, there is evidence that you can add up to 3-4 years to your life, even if you already have coronary artery disease. By incorporating moderate-intensity exercise into your day, you can not only reverse the changes being made by coronary artery disease, but you can increase your life expectancy as well. There is no medication in the world that can do this for you, just exercise.

You may be wondering how your physical therapist can help. If you already have coronary artery disease, your PT can help determine safe exercise intensity levels for you, as well as provide you ideas of how to incorporate more activity into your day. If you have a family history of cardiac events or you’re worried that you may develop this disease in the future, your PT can sit down to identify risk factors with you, then discuss how to mitigate these risks. Your PT may also recommend a consult with a dietitian to help you make healthy dietary choices, further preventing or reversing coronary artery disease. Overall, the goal is to combine regular movement, choose good foods and reduce stress to not only improve your quality of life but also to add years to it.



Coronary artery disease – coronary heart disease. (2015, July 31). Retrieved April 04, 2021, from

Moore SC, Patel AV, Matthews CE, et al. Leisure time physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity and mortality: a large pooled cohort analysis. PLoS Med 2012;9:e1001335