Coronary arteries are arterial blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood and nutrients to the heart. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), also known as ischemic heart disease, is a condition developed due to the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries.
The fatty deposits called plaques narrow the arteries, diminishing the blood flow. It can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and can even lead to a heart attack. It is one of the common types of heart disease, and there are multiple ways to treat and prevent it.
The main cause of coronary artery disease is the plaque deposited in the artery walls. It develops differently from person to person and can be caused by various factors like:
Heavy alcohol use
Family history of heart diseases
High blood pressure
When the arteries are damaged with the fatty deposits of cholesterol and other waste materials, it becomes stiffer and narrower. If the plaque breaks open or ruptures due to blood pressure or other causes, it will form a blood clot that further narrows the arteries. Without proper blood flow, the heart will become weaker, leading to heart failure.
At the early stages of coronary artery disease, you may not experience any symptoms as the plaque deposit takes years to develop. You will come across the symptoms when there is too much plaque buildup narrowing the arteries and blocking the blood flow to the heart.
The most common symptoms for CAD apart from a heart attack are:
Chest pain (angina)
Shortness of breath
Pain or discomfort in arms, legs, shoulders, back, or jaw
Women may experience different symptoms than men. It can include:
Heartburn or indigestion
Pain in shoulders, neck, back, or abdomen
Once the physician has enquired about your medical history, they will review the symptoms and risk factors and suggest some diagnostic tests. It may include:
ECG or EKG (electrocardiogram)
The treatment for coronary artery disease will depend on the patient's case. It usually involves lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery if only necessary. Physicians will advise you to quit smoking, maintain a healthy diet, limit alcohol consumption, and increase your physical activities.
Your physician will recommend a few medications like beta-blockers, aspirin, blood thinners, and even cholesterol-modifying medications. Procedures like coronary artery bypass surgery, angioplasty, and stent replacement are only done if necessary.
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