Coronary Artery Disease
What is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)?
Coronary artery disease involves blockage of the arteries of the heart. It results from damage to the coronary arteries which are the major blood vessels that supply blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the heart. Plaque on the arteries is usually the main culprit. When this plaque builds up, it can narrow the arteries and result in decreased blood flow to the heart.
What are the causes of CAD?
Coronary artery disease is thought to begin with damage or injury to the inner layer of a coronary artery, sometimes as early as childhood. The most common causes of damage include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes.
What are the symptoms of CAD?
At first, the decreased blood flow may not cause any coronary artery disease symptoms. As the plaques build up and develop into significant blockages, patients may experience chest pain, shortness of breath and heart attack. Other associated symptoms may include abdominal pain and fatigue with exertion.
How is CAD treated?
Initially, diagnostic testing is needed to determine the severity of the CAD. These tests may include electrocardiogram (EKG), stress testing, echocardiogram, and myocardial perfusion imaging. Medications that can treat CAD include statins which help lower cholesterol, anti-hypertensives which help lower blood pressure, beta-blockers which help slow heart rate, and medications like aspirin that block the activity of platelets. These anti-platelet medications help prevent your blood from thickening or clotting.
If needed, coronary interventions may be done such as balloon angioplasty and placement of stents in the coronary arteries. For blockages that are severe, coronary artery bypass may be helpful or necessary.
How can you prevent CAD?
Lifestyle modification is a key in preventing CAD. Tobacco use cessation, weight loss, stress reduction, healthy meals, and exercise are examples of how you can help prevent or even improve coronary artery disease.