What is coronary artery disease?

Coronary heart disease is the narrowing or blocking of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. A decrease in the blood flow to the heart muscle due to a build-up of fatty deposits in your arteries results in coronary artery disease. Over a period of time, this reduced blood flow or lack of oxygen may result in a heart attack.

Possible Causes: 

When the main arteries that supply your heart with vital nutrients and oxygen through blood become narrowed, you have a disease called coronary artery disease. 

Coronary artery disease causes are deposits, called plaque, that contain cholesterol and start building up, narrowing your coronary arteries, and decreasing blood flow to you heart. The decreased blood flow to the heart causes coronary artery diseases that leads to chest pain (angina) and shortness of breath. A complete blockage can cause a heart attack.

Risk Factors: 

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, habits such as smoking or a strong family history of heart disease are some of the risk factors. 

You may not have much control over the following coronary artery disease risk factors, so they are called non-modifiable risk factors:

  • Age: as you grow older the risk of your arteries getting narrowed and being unable to supply adequate blood to your heart increases.
  • Gender: research reveals that men are more likely to suffer from a coronary artery disease, whereas for women the risk increases after menopause.
  • Family history: if your parents, grandparents or siblings had a heart disease then you stand a greater risk of developing a coronary artery disease, more so if it happened at a younger age.

You can try to control the following modifiable risk factors:

  • Smoking: this results in hardening and thickening of your arteries.
  • High blood pressure: this is called a silent killer as it affects the arteries if not kept in control.
  • High blood cholesterol levels: you are at the risk of developing atherosclerosis and increasing the formation of plaque in your arteries. 
  • Diabetes and obesity: excess weight and high sugar levels typically worsens other risk factors.
  • High stress and an unhealthy diet.

Signs & Symptoms: 

  • Chest pain (angina): during exercise you may feel a sudden tightness in your chest as if someone is squeezing it. This happens when your narrowed coronary arteries are unable to supply adequate blood to your heart. This is called angina and is generally prompted by physical or emotional stress.
  • Shortness of breath and fatigue: this happens when your heart can't pump enough blood to meet your body's demands.
  • Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia): when the heart does not receive adequate blood supply, it results in disruption of the heart’s electrical impulses, causing abnormal heart rhythms.
  • Heart attack: profuse sweating and pain radiating from your chest towards your shoulders or arms with shortness of breath are classic symptoms of a heart attack. This happens due to a completely blocked coronary artery.

Diagnosis: 

For a coronary artery disease diagnosis, the following tests may be recommended, after recording your medical history:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): an ECG can often reveal evidence of a previous heart attack or one that's in progress.
  • Stress test: this involves taking an ECG while you walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike. This is known as an exercise stress test. Another stress test known as a nuclear stress test helps measure blood flow to your heart muscle at rest and during stress. 
  • Echocardiogram: this is an imaging test used by the cardiac specialist to determine whether all parts of the heart wall are contributing normally to your heart's pumping activity. 
  • Cardiac catheterisation or coronary angiogram: a long, thin, flexible tube (catheter) that is threaded through an artery, helps your cardiologist to discover the extent of blockages in your arteries. The treatment for this is called angioplasty in which either a balloon is used to inflate the narrowed artery or a stent is inserted to keep the artery open.
  • Heart scan: computerised tomography (CT) technologies can assist in observing calcium deposits in your arteries that may lead to a coronary artery disease.

You can get all the necessary diagnostics done conveniently at Medcare.

Treatment Options: 

The heart specialist at Medcare will recommend the best coronary artery disease treatment for you. Lifestyle changes are recommended as the primary treatment for coronary artery disease followed by medicines and surgery, if required.

Strict control of diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and cessation of smoking are essential. Regular medical check-ups should be done.

If your coronary artery disease is leading to other complications, your cardiologist may recommend a procedure such as an angioplasty and stent placement (percutaneous coronary revascularisation), or a coronary artery bypass surgery.

FAQs: الأسئلة الشائعة:
  • What are some coronary artery disease prevention habits that I can follow?

    A: A healthy lifestyle helps to keep your arteries clear and prevents the build-up of plaque. If you smoke, it’s important that you quit immediately. Make sure that your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar are under control.

    Follow an exercise and fitness routine and keep your weight under control. Try to keep your stress levels under control. All these habits will help you to prevent coronary artery disease.

  • How is an angioplasty and stent placement done?

    A: In this procedure, the specialist will insert a long, thin tube, called a catheter, into the narrowed part of your artery. A wire with a deflated balloon is passed through the catheter to the narrowed area. The balloon is then inflated.

    This makes the deposits in the arteries compress. A stent is usually left in the artery to maintain the opening. Most stents slowly release medication that works to keep the arteries open.

  • Which foods will help me avoid a coronary heart disease?

    A: Eating fish and fish-oil gives you the much-needed Omega-3 fatty acids to reduce body inflammation. The overall aim should be to maintain a healthy body weight.

    Online BMI (body mass index) calculators can be used for reference. Foods that contain saturated fat, trans fat, salt and sugar increase your risk of coronary artery disease and should be avoided.

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