Coronary artery disease (CAD), also called coronary heart disease (CHD), develops when the major blood vessels that supply the heart with blood, oxygen and nutrients become damaged or diseased.
The condition is usually caused by cholesterol-containing deposits called plaque. It is a waxy substance with a combination of cholesterol, fat and other substances which stick to the walls lining the blood vessels. Overtime they make arteries become harder and narrower and may cause a condition called atherosclerosis. Plaque buildup narrows coronary arteries, thereby decreasing the blood flow to the heart which eventually causes chest pain, shortness of breath or other signs and symptoms of coronary artery disease. Uncontrolled coronary artery disease or a complete blockage of arteries can cause a heart attack.
Coronary artery disease progresses over the years and it may remain unnoticed until the plaque buildup results in a blocked artery in heart leading to a heart attack. Regular health checkups can help in identifying the condition early and following a healthy lifestyle can help prevent the condition.
Once the coronary arteries become narrow due to plaque buildup, the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart is disrupted. The demand increases during periods where the heart is beating hard, such is during exercise, climbing stairs or any other strenuous activity. Blocked artery symptoms will not be evident in the initial years but as plaque continues to build up in the arteries, patients may develop certain signs and symptoms including the following:
The most common cause of coronary artery disease is vascular injury to the inner layer of coronary artery with the buildup of plaque. The injury may be caused by various factors including:
Over the years, plaque made of cholesterol and other cellular waste products tend to accumulate at the site of injury through a process called as atherosclerosis. In some instances, the surface of the plaque ruptures and as a defense mechanism, blood cells clump at the site to repair the artery. The clump gets dislodged in some instances and can clog narrow arteries leading to a heart attack.
Some of the risk factors for blocked arteries are as follows:
Apart from these classic risk factors, coronary artery disease can also be caused by other factors including:
Regular health checkups will help to identify the condition early. Doctor will ask several questions related to your medical history and your family history. The risk of coronary artery disease increases if any of the family members or relatives had heart disease earlier.
This is followed by a thorough physical exam. Blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels are an important indicator for coronary artery disease. Your doctor may request for a routine blood test to identify any abnormalities that guide the diagnosis. Apart from these routine tests, your doctor may suggest one or more of the following tests to confirm a heart disease:
Coronary Artery Disease is a progressive disease and once diagnosed can be managed through treatment. It can also be prevented from developing by leading a healthy lifestyle and keeping the arteries free of plaque.
Here are some measures that can be followed to prevent coronary artery disease:
Once coronary artery disease is diagnosed, patients have several options to manage or treat it. Your doctor might recommend lifestyle changes along with treatment with drugs. In some cases, your doctor might suggest a surgical procedure based on the seriousness of the condition.
Your doctor might recommend the following lifestyle measures to maintain healthy arteries or manage blood cholesterol levels.
If lifestyle changes are not adequate, or for better results, your doctor might recommend medication to keep the heart healthier. It is important to follow the dose and take the medication regularly.
Sometimes more aggressive procedures are needed to restore and improve blood flow, these include.
Coronary artery disease can be managed with lifestyle changes and medication. Early diagnosis can be very helpful in taking some measures to keep blood cholesterol in check or manage other risk factors. The approach is to prevent extensive damage to the heart and prevent heart attack.
In cases where a surgery is performed to remove the arterial block or bypass the heart block it is important to follow the doctor's instructions. Medication should be taken regularly and lifestyle changes to be followed promptly. Heart attack can happen again in some cases and hence proper measures to be taken to prevent the 2nd heart attack. In these cases appropriate measures to be taken to get urgent medical attention.
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