Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a heart disease that causes an inadequate supply of blood to the heart muscle-a potentially damaging condition. Coronary artery disease is also referred to as coronary heart disease (CHD).
Causes of Coronary Artery Disease
Some common causes include:
Coronary artery disease is caused by a buildup of fatty, waxy deposits on the inside of your arteries. These deposits are made up of cholesterol, calcium, and other substances in the blood. This buildup is called "atherosclerotic plaque" or simply "plaque." Plaque deposits can clog the coronary arteries and make them stiff and irregular. This is called "hardening of the arteries." There can be a single blockage or multiple blockages, and they can vary in severity and location. These deposits slowly narrow the coronary arteries, causing your heart to receive less blood and oxygen. This decrease in blood flow may cause chest pain (angina), shortness of breath or other symptoms. A complete blockage can cause a heart attack.
Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease
Because coronary artery disease (clogged arteries) can develop over many years, symptoms are often not felt until blockages are severe and life-threatening. You may first notice symptoms when your heart is working harder than usual, such as during exercise. However, these symptoms can also occur when you are resting and no activity is occurring.
Symptoms of coronary artery disease differ from person to person, but typical symptoms include:
Women may have atypical chest pain. It may be fleeting or sharp and noticed in the abdomen, back, or arm. Women are somewhat more likely than men to experience other warning signs of a heart attack, including nausea and back or jaw pain. Sometimes a heart attack occurs without any apparent signs or symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you think you have symptoms of coronary artery disease. If you think you might be having a heart attack, seek immediate medical attention. If you or someone you know is suffering from the above symptoms, we can help facilitate a checkup; for assistance, call the Healthy Heart for All toll free number 1-800-209-5123.
Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease
Some hardening of the arteries occurs as a person grows older. However, certain risk factors can accelerate the process:
Men are at a higher risk of coronary artery disease than are women. A woman's risk increases after menopause.
Diagnosis of Coronary Artery Disease
If your doctor suspects you have coronary artery disease, he or she can refer you to a cardiologist that specializes in problems of the heart, arteries and veins. When making a diagnosis, your doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical history and risk factors. Based on this information, your doctor may give you tests to see how healthy your arteries are. The most common tests include:
Treatment Options for Coronary Artery Disease
You can do a lot to control cardiovascular disease. Take medication. Change your diet. Exercise. When these changes aren't enough, your doctor will determine the best treatment for you based on the underlying problems, where and how severe your blockages are, and your future risks.
Pharmaceutical Therapy When atherosclerosis is identified at an early stage, medications such as nitrates, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, aspirin, or cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) may be prescribed. These medicines may slow the disease's progress or ease its symptoms.
Bypass Surgery Coronary artery bypass grafting, or "CABG" (pronounced "cabbage"), is a common heart procedure. A surgeon takes a section of a healthy blood vessel from your leg, chest, or arm. The vessel is then connected (grafted) to your coronary artery slightly past the site of the blockage. This creates a new path for blood to flow around (bypass) the blockage in the artery so it can get to your heart. Patients undergoing bypass are put under general anesthetic and are not awake during surgery. Two bypass surgical procedures for coronary artery disease are: (1) beating heart surgery and (2) arrested heart surgery.
Minimally Invasive Treatments
For some patients, minimally invasive coronary artery surgery is an alternative to the CABG surgery. Three minimally invasive treatments for coronary artery disease (CAD) are coronary balloon angioplasty, stenting, and minimally invasive cardiac surgery (MICS) CABG.
Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information. For queries regarding cardiac care, call our toll-free number 1-800-209-5123