Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is a disease that occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrow due to plaque buildup. Plaque is made up of cholesterol and other fatty substances. CAD is not sudden, as the buildup takes years to reach a level that impacts the heart's working. Another word for CAD is coronary heart disease or even ischemic heart disease.
Coronary Artery disease affects the blood vessels, i.e., arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. There are three main arteries:
Causes of Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary Artery Disease starts when the vessels start getting significantly narrowed due to plaque formation. Injury to the arteries can be caused by:
Plaque consisting of fatty substances and cholesterol start building up in the place of injury. This plaque is called atherosclerosis. The plaque slowly builds up over a long period and narrows the arteries restricting blood flow to the heart. Clogged arteries significantly reduce the amount of oxygen-rich blood required for the heart to function. Reduced blood supply could lead to chest pain which can further aggravate to heart attack and eventually heart failure.
Coronary Artery Disease Symptoms
Since plaque buildup in the arteries happens gradually over the years, Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is difficult to detect in its early stages. Over the years, the first signs of CAD are shortness of breath or tiredness. The other main signs of Coronary Artery Disease are:
Coronary Artery Disease Symptoms in women are usually different. These include:
Coronary Artery Disease Treatment
Your doctor would likely diagnose you with coronary artery disease based on your symptoms. Then, depending on your health, medical history, and various other factors, a treatment plan will be mapped by your doctor.
The first step in treating or reducing the impact of CAD is a change to a healthier lifestyle. These include,
Eating foods that are low in trans fat, excessive sugar, and salt
Following an active lifestyle with sufficient workouts
Along with lifestyle changes, doctors would prescribe medications to manage the heart condition. Medications would include drugs to reduce cholesterol, blood thinners, beta-blockers, and other drugs to reduce cholesterol and help prevent further deterioration of the arteries.
Angioplasty refers to the procedure that can help open blocked arteries through peripheral arterial access using wires
A long, thin, and flexible wire is inserted into the arteries. The wire is equipped with a deflated balloon.
The balloon is inflated at the blocked artery walls to increase blood flow.
A stent is a small tube that may also be used to keep the widened artery walls open.
Bypass surgery involves using healthy blood vessels from other body parts to bypass the diseased arteries of the heart so that perfusion is re-established to the muscle of the heart. In today’s era bypass surgery is a very safe procedure and has superior long term symptom free survival.
Coronary Heart Disease is more likely in case of these risk factors.
While Coronary Artery Disease would be difficult to control if you are genetically predisposed to it, the other risk factors would be easier to control.
How is Coronary Artery Disease Diagnosed?
If you are seeing mild symptoms of coronary heart disease or you have a family history of coronary heart disease, a doctor might suggest a few tests to identify the problem.
The test measures the heart's electrical activity and the frequency of heartbeats.
Chest X-rays can help doctors get a clear picture of the heart.
Using sonic waves in ultrasound to get a clear picture of the heart to look for regional wall motion abnormalities and valvular structure and function which are affected by coronary artery disease.
Measuring heart rate while walking on a treadmill. The test helps to determine how healthy your heart is while under stress.
In this test, a dye is injected into the arteries. Then, using an x-ray, it is tracked to understand blockages in the arteries.
Calcium Scan of the Arteries
This scan allows doctors to track calcium buildup and plaque in the arteries.
Primary prevention of CAD means minimizing the chances of the disease occurring. While it may be challenging to prevent CAD if you are genetically predisposed to it, you can take specific measures to prolong the disease as much as possible. Managing cholesterol is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. To control cholesterol, a patient needs to be physically active. Limiting alcohol and smoking habits could also help towards reducing CAD. A healthy diet consisting of less sodium, sugars, and trans or saturated fats can help prevent CAD.
Other than the primary prevention factors of following a healthy lifestyle and managing weight, secondary prevention involves surgical coronary bypass surgery and other medical therapies to reduce the occurrence of CAD.
The epidemiology of Coronary Artery Disease is the study of the occurrence of CAD globally depending on various demographics. CAD is one of the diseases that is one of the leading causes of death globally. Approximately 7% of adults in the United States have CAD.
CAD can be identified by studying the signs and symptoms in individuals and the risk factors of each individual. While CAD can be treated with preventive measures like lifestyle changes and medications, it cannot be cured completely.
A person who has been diagnosed with CAD will need to use preventive measures and stick to a healthy lifestyle to prevent severe degradation of the heart.
Natural Progression of Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary Artery Disease starts with a buildup of plaque and fatty substances in the arteries supplying blood to the heart. Over the years, the buildup starts restricting blood flow and compromises the functioning of the heart. If the condition is neglected and not prevented in time, CAD could lead to heart failure and death.
Pathophysiology of Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary Artery Disease deals with the functioning of the heart. The arteries become blocked due to fatty buildup, which affects how the heart functions. The heart needs oxygen-rich blood to keep the body healthy.
Possible Complications of Coronary Artery Disease
Although preventive measures are taken to reduce the occurrence of Coronary Artery Disease, it could lead to complications like,
- Heart Attack - If a blood clot forms in the arteries, this could result in the complete blocking of blood to the heart. This could trigger a heart attack and damage the heart muscles irreparably.
- Heart Failure - Reduced blood flow to the heart could weaken heart muscles and make it too weak to function optimally.
- Arrhythmia - Insufficient blood supply can cause irregular heartbeats in the heart. Arrhythmia can lead to heart attack or heart failure if not monitored and checked.
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