Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease (CAD
or atherosclerosis of the heart) is a disease
where atherosclerotic plaques, or hard deposits
made of blood cells, calcium, cholesterol and tissues form in
the arteries that supply blood to the heart's muscle or myocardium.
These blocked arteries can also become brittle and prone to damage.
The heart's muscles need a lot of oxygen to function properly.
When arteries or blood vessels that supply oxygenated blood are
blocked, it may cause damage to the heart muscle (especially to
the left ventricle of the heart, which pumps blood to the rest
of the body).
Coronary artery disease is the most common cause of heart
attack or myocardial infarction.
Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease
The symptoms of coronary artery disease include:
- Chest pain or angina under the breast bone
- Chest pain that worsens with stress or physical exertion,
but goes away with rest
- Pain that runs into the neck , jaw, throat and arms
Consult your doctor immediately if you have these symptoms, especially
for men over the age of 40. CAD is a serious condition, and can
cause damage to the heart if not treated immediately - total blockage
of coronary artery can occur in as little as 15 minutes.
The symptoms of CAD can sometimes be vague or even absent before
death occurs. Indeed, about 25% of people who die of this disease
never have any symptom.
To diagnose CAD, your doctor may perform the following tests:
- ECG or electrocardiogram
- Coronary angiography or x-ray study to visualize the arterial
Who Gets It?
Coronary artery disease is about eight times more common in men
than in women for those under 40 years of age. However, with increasing
age, the risk in women increases - at around 70, the risk of developing
CAD is equal for men and women.
Because of this difference, it is theorized that the female sex
hormone estrogen, which increases the HDL cholestrol
level (the "good cholesterol") and prostaglandin,
which dilate the blood vessel and prevent blood clots, may play
a role in reducing the risk of coronary artery disease in younger
It is best to prevent rather than treat coronary artery disease.
Prevention of CAD include:
- Quit smoking.
Cigarette smoking alters the LDL cholesterol ("bad cholesterol")
and cause it to become more likely to form plaques.
- Lose weight and exercise
Being overweight is a risk factor for developing coronary artery
disease. Eating a healthier diet is also a prerequisite for
- Reduce stress
Treatment of Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease treatment includes:
- Nitroglycerin tablet
Given sublingually (placed under the tongue), nitroglycerin
can help relieve chest pain or angina.
- Coronary angioplasty or balloon dilation
In this procedure, a catheter tube is threaded into
the artery of the heart and a small baloon is inflated to enlarge
the vessel at the point of plaque buildup. A wire stent can
then be inserted to "prop" open the artery and permit
blood to flow.
- Heart bypass surgery or coronary
In this surgical procedure, a surgeon "bypasses" a
blocked artery by grafting another blood vessel from the chest
Surgery is the preferred treatment option for those who have:
- 50% blockage or more in the left main coronary artery
- Three blocked coronary arteries
- Chest pain or angina after a heart attack
It is important to note that lifestyle and diet changes follow
these treatments. Without them, the atherosclerotic plaque buildup
will continue, and further blockage (or new blockage in the bypass
arteries) will develop.
The prognosis for those treated with coronary artery disease
is good. Over 90% of those treated are alive after 5 years without
any chest pain.
is Coronary Artery Disease?
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood
- Medline Plus