Coronary artery disease (CAD) or coronary artery disease decreases blood flow through the arteries that supply the heart with blood. The most common form of heart disease is CAD, which affects approximately 16.5 million Americans over the age of 20.(1)
This is the leading cause of death in both males and females in the United States. An estimated one in the United States has a heart attack every 40 seconds.
An uncontrolled CAD may result in a heart attack.
Causes of coronary artery disease
The most frequent cause of CAD is vascular lesion with the formation of cholesterol plaque in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. It leads to a decrease in blood flow when one or more of these arteries become partially or fully blocked.
There are 4 major coronary arteries on the surface of the heart:
- left circumflex artery
- left anterior descending artery
- right main coronary artery
- left main coronary artery
These arteries provide the heart with nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood. Your heart is a muscle which is responsible for pumping blood out of your entire body. As per the Cleveland Clinic, A healthy heart pumps approximately 3,000 gallons of blood across your body each day.
Just as any other organ or muscle, your heart must be supplied with sufficient and constant blood to carry out its function. A decrease in blood circulation in your heart may cause CAD symptoms.
Other rare causes of coronary artery lesions or blockages also decrease blood flow to the heart.
Symptoms of Coronary artery disease
Whenever your heart needs no arterial blood, You can observe a variety of symptoms. Angina (chest discomfort and pain) is the most commonly occurring symptom of CAD. Some people refer to this discomfort as:
- chest pain
These symptoms may also include heartburn and indigestion.
Other symptoms associated with CAD include:
- pain in arms/shoulders
- shortness of breath
You may experience more symptoms when your blood flow is less than normal. If the blood flow is stopped completely or almost, Your heart muscle will start to die unless it’s recovered. We got a heart attack.
Remember all these symptoms, especially when they are very intense or last more than 5 minutes. We need emergency medical treatment.
Symptoms of Coronary artery disease for women
Women can also have the above symptoms, However, they also experience other symptoms, such as:
- back pain
- jaw pain
- dyspnea without feeling chest pain
The risk of heart disease is higher in males than in pre-menopausal females. Menopausal women at 70 years of age face the same risk as men.
Because of the reduction in blood flow, your heart can also:
- become weak
- develop irregular cardiac rhythms. (arrhythmia) or rates
- unable to pump the amount of blood your body needs.
Your doctor will determine if there are any heart defects during diagnosis.
Risk factors for Coronary artery disease
Understanding the risk factors for CAD can help you plan for prevention or reduction of the risk of developing the disease.
The risk factors are:
- unhealthy diet
- obstructive sleep apnea
- high blood pressure
- Raised blood cholesterol levels
- tobacco smoking
- insulin resistance hyperglycemia diabetes mellitus
- emotional stress
- drinking too much alcohol
- history of preeclampsia during pregnancy
The risk of CAD also increases as people get older. According to age alone as a risk factor, men are more at risk of contracting the disease from the age of 45 and women are more at risk from the age of 55. You are also more likely to develop coronary heart disease if you have a family history of the disease.
Diagnosing Coronary artery disease
CAD diagnostic requires a review of your medical history, a physical examination as well as other medical examinations. These tests consist of:(2)
- Electrocardiogram: It monitors the electrical signals in your heart. This may help your doctor figure out if you have had a heart attack.
- Echocardiogram: This imaging test utilizes ultrasonic waves to produce a picture of your heart. The results of this test show whether something in your heart is working properly.
- Stress test: This special test measures the stress your heart experiences while being physically active and resting. This test monitors your heart’s electrical activity when you walk on a treadmill or stationary bicycle. Nuclear imaging may be performed for part of this test as well. For those who are not able to exercise, some drugs may be used instead for stress tests.
- Cardiac catheterization (left heart catheterization): During this procedure, your doctor injects a special dye into your coronary arteries using a catheter inserted into an artery in your groin or forearm. Dye can improve the radiographic image of your coronary arteries to detect blockages.
- Heart CT scan: Your doctor can perform this imaging test to make sure that calcium deposits are present in your arteries.
Treatment for Coronary artery disease?
You need to reduce or control your risk factors and choose treatment to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke, if you receive a CAD diagnosis. Treatment is also dependent on your current health, risk factors and general well-being. For example, your doctor may recommend drug treatment for hypercholesterolemia or hypertention, or you could get medication to control your blood sugar if you are diabetic.
Lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke as well. For example:
- quitting tobacco use
- reduce or stop the use of alcohol
- exercise regularly
- weight loss at a healthy level
- healthy eating (low in fat, low in sodium)
If your condition does not improve with the improvement of life habits and medications, Your doctor may recommend an intervention to increase blood flow to your heart. This includes the following:
- balloon angioplasty: to enlarge blocked arteries and destroy plaque accumulation, often done by placing a stent to help keep the lumen open after the procedure.
- coronary artery bypass graft surgery: to reduce blood flow to the heart during open chest surgery.
- enhanced external counterpulsation: stimulate the development of new small blood vessels to naturally bypass blocked arteries in a non-invasive process.
Viewpoint for Coronary artery disease?
Everybody’s interpretation of CAD is different. You are more likely to prevent significant damage to your heart the sooner you can start your treatment or adjust lifestyle changes.
Follow the instructions given by your doctor. Use the prescribed medications and change your lifestyle. If you are at increased risk of developing CAD, you can help prevent it by reducing your risk factors.