Coronary Artery Disease
What is coronary artery disease?
Coronary artery disease (CAD) or coronary heart disease occurs when the coronary arteries become too narrow. The coronary arteries refer to the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart.
These arteries form the network of blood vessels on the surface of the heart that brings oxygen to the heart. If the arteries become narrow, the heart may not receive enough blood that is rich in oxygen, especially during physical activities.
Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease and when uncontrolled, can lead to a heart attack.
Types of coronary heart disease include:
- Obstructive coronary artery disease
- Nonobstructive coronary artery disease
- Coronary microvascular disease
Coronary artery disease symptoms
The most common symptom of CAD is Angina or chest discomfort. Angina may cause the following feelings and symptoms across the chest:
- Chest pain
Other coronary artery disease symptoms include:
- Pain in the arms and shoulders
- Shortness of breath
One may experience more symptoms when the blood flow is more restricted. In cases where a blockage cuts off blood flow almost completely or completely, the heart muscle will start to die if not restored in time. This is called a heart attack.
It is vital to not ignore the symptoms and get immediate medical treatment.
Who is at risk?
Coronary artery disease risk factor includes:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol level
- Smoking tobacco
- Insulin resistance/ diabetes mellitus/hyperglycemia
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Emotional stress
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Older age
- A family history of the disease
Coronary artery disease causes
The heart is a muscle that is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body and requires an adequate amount of blood to carry out its work. There are four primary coronary arteries that bring oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the heart. These are:
- Right main coronary artery
- Left main coronary artery
- Left circumflex artery
- Left anterior descending artery
A reduced flow of blood to the heart can cause symptoms of coronary artery disease.
The most common amongst coronary artery disease causes are vascular injury with cholesterol plaque build-up in the arteries. It is known as atherosclerosis.
Cholesterol tends to build-up on the artery walls, creating plaques. These plaques cause the arteries to narrow, resulting in a reduction of blood flow to the heart. Sometimes, a clot can also obstruct the flow of blood to the heart, this can cause serious health problems.
Coronary artery disease can sometimes lead to a heart attack.
How is coronary artery disease diagnosed?
Coronary artery disease diagnosis requires a review of the medical history of the patient and a physical examination. Test for coronary artery disease may include:
- Stress test
- Cardiac catheterization
- Heart CT Scan
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How is coronary artery disease treated?
Coronary artery disease treatment depends on the patient’s current health condition, risk factors, and their overall wellbeing. It is crucial to reduce and control the risk factors and seek treatment to lower the chances of a stroke or heart attack.
Certain lifestyle changes can help in reducing the risk of heart disease or stroke. These may include:
- Quitting smoking tobacco
- Stopping or reducing the consumption of alcohol
- Exercising regularly
- Losing weight to a healthy level
- Eating a healthy diet
In case the condition does not improve with lifestyle changes and medication, the doctor may go for advanced treatments and procedures to increase the flow of blood to the heart.
- Balloon angioplasty: It widens the clocked arteries and smooshes down the plaque buildup. It is generally performed with the insertion of a stent to help in keeping the lumen open after the procedure.
- Coronary artery bypass graft surgery: It restores the blood flow to the heart in open-chest surgery.
- Enhanced external counterpulsation: It stimulates the formation of new small blood vessels to naturally bypass the clogged arteries. It is a noninvasive procedure.
How can coronary artery disease be prevented?
Coronary artery disease prevention or reduction of the risk of coronary artery disease can be done by controlling the blood cholesterol levels. In order to do that, a person should:
- Be more physically active
- Limit alcohol intake
- Avoid smoking tobacco
- Adopt a diet with less salt, sugar, and saturated fats