Blood vessels that send oxygenated blood outward from the heart are called arteries. Of all the blood vessels in your body, the aorta is the largest. The left ventricle is separated from the aorta by the aortic valve. Coronary arteries branch off from the aorta to keep the heart supplied with nutrients
Coronary artery disease (CAD), also known as atherosclerotic heart disease and coronary heart disease, results from a thickening of the artery walls that restricts blood flow to the heart. Thickened artery walls narrow blood vessels, leading to reduced supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. CAD may lead to heart attack or heart damage and is the leading cause of Americans, according to the American Heart Association. Treatment involves medications, lifestyle changes, surgery, and interventional procedures.
Blood vessels that send oxygenated blood outward from the heart are called arteries. Of all the blood vessels in your body, the aorta is the largest. The left ventricle is separated from the aorta by the aortic valve. Coronary arteries branch off from the aorta to keep the heart supplied with nutrients and oxygen-rich blood to keep it healthy. Deoxygenated blood from the right ventricle is carried to the lungs by the pulmonary artery. Vessels that deliver used blood from your lungs and body back to the heart are called veins.
Coronary artery disease occurs when there is a thickening of the walls of the arteries that deliver blood and oxygen to the heart. The typically elastic artery walls harden from plaque formation, and thick, rigid walls create a narrow, restricted passageway for blood. Even greater blockage can occur if the thickened plaques rupture. Over time, heart muscle damage and heart cell death may lead to shortness of breath, angina, heart attack, and even sudden death.
In some cases, CAD will present no noticeable symptoms. In other cases, symptoms will be very obvious and include chest pain, angina, shortness of breath, swollen ankles and feet, and pain in the arms or neck. Sometimes, the first sign of CAD is heart attack. The chest pain associated with heart attacks is often severe and unresponsive to rest or nitroglycerin. Call an ambulance immediately and chew an aspirin if you suspect you are experiencing a heart attack.
After reviewing your medical history and performing a physical exam, cardiovascular test, and blood tests, your doctor can begin to diagnose coronary artery disease. Your doctor will check your blood pressure and pulse before performing tests to learn about the function and structure of your cardiovascular system and heart.
Imaging studies and heart assessments include electrocardiogram, exercise stress test, echocardiogram, nuclear ventriculography, and coronary angiography.
Treatment depends on the severity of your condition and what your symptoms are. Treatment may include medications, lifestyle changes, interventional procedures, and surgery. Helpful lifestyle changes include maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, keeping a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and maintaining healthy blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
Medications that lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, decrease heart rates, stop chest pain, and thin blood can help treat coronary artery disease and its contributing factors.
There are several interventional procedures that may help treat CAD, including coronary angioplasty, athrectomy, stenting, and brachytherapy. A coronary angioplasty opens blocked coronary arteries. An inserted stent keeps a coronary artery open. Coronary brachytherapy provides radiation treatment to the coronary arteries and is typically the alternative for people that have had trouble with stents.
CAD may also be treated with minimally invasive heart surgery such as coronary artery bypass surgery. This procedure involves moving a blood vessel from somewhere else in the body to restore blood flow to the heart by creating a detour that bypasses a clogged artery. Blood vessels, usually taken from the leg, are surgically attached to the coronary artery. Multiple coronary arteries may need bypass surgery.
Controlling risk factors such as blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, diabetes, and activity levels may help prevent coronary artery disease. Quit smoking, exercise regularly, and maintain a heart healthy diet. If you need eating guidelines or help meal planning, ask your doctor to refer you to a nutritionist.
Am I At Risk
Risk factors for CAD include obesity, cigarette smoking, family history, physical inactivity, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, diabetes, and higher-than-normal inflammation markers.
Coronary artery disease can cause heart attack, angina, and even sudden death. Symptoms of heart attack include pressure, pain, fullness, and squeezing in the chest, and may feel like a case of bad indigestion. Other symptoms may include nausea, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, vomiting, and cold sweat. Call an ambulance immediately if you experience symptoms of heart attack.
Chest discomfort is the most common heart attack symptom for both men and women. However, women are more likely to experience atypical symptoms like nausea, overwhelming fatigue, back or jaw pain, vomiting, nausea, and shortness of breath.