Friday, July 19, 2024

Coronary Artery Disease

HomeHealthCoronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease is a common heart condition. The major blood vessels that supply the heart (coronary arteries) struggle to send enough blood, oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. Cholesterol deposits (plaques) in the heart arteries and inflammation are usually the cause of coronary artery disease.

Signs and symptoms of coronary artery disease occur when the heart doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood. If you have coronary artery disease, reduced blood flow to the heart can cause chest pain (angina) and shortness of breath. A complete blockage of blood flow can cause a heart attack. 

According to Stephen Kopecky, M.D. a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic, “There are a number of risk factors, common red flags, that can contribute to this and ultimately lead to coronary artery disease. First, getting older can mean more damaged and narrowed arteries. Second, men are generally at a greater risk. But the risk for women increases after menopause. Diabetes is also associated with higher risk, as is being overweight. Your lifestyle plays a large role as well. Physical inactivity, long periods of unrelieved stress in your life, an unhealthy diet and smoking can all increase your risk. And finally, family history. If a close relative was diagnosed at an early age with heart disease, you’re at a greater risk. All these factors together can paint a picture of your risk for developing CAD.”

Coronary artery disease often develops over decades. Following a heart-healthy lifestyle can help prevent coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease may also be called coronary heart disease. Symptoms may go unrecognized at first, or they may only occur when the heart is beating hard during exercise or when a blockage or heart attack occurs. As the coronary arteries continue to narrow, less blood gets to the heart. Symptoms may become more severe or frequent.

Coronary Artery Disease Signs and Symptoms Can Include

Chest pain (angina). You may feel pressure or tightness in your chest. Some people say it feels like someone is standing on their chest. The chest pain usually occurs on the middle or left side of the chest. Activity or strong emotions can trigger angina. The pain usually goes away within minutes after the triggering event ends. In some people, especially women, the pain may be brief or sharp and felt in the neck, arm or back.

Shortness of breath. You may feel like you can’t catch your breath.

Fatigue. If the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs, you may feel unusually tired.

Heart attack. A completely blocked coronary artery will cause a heart attack. The classic signs and symptoms of a heart attack include crushing chest pain or pressure, shoulder or arm pain, shortness of breath, and sweating. Women may have less typical symptoms, such as neck or jaw pain, nausea and fatigue. Some heart attacks don’t cause any noticeable signs or symptoms.

If you think you’re having a heart attack, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number. If you don’t have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only as a last option.

Smoking or having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity or a strong family history of heart disease makes you more likely to get coronary artery disease. If you’re at high risk of coronary artery disease, talk to your health care provider. You may need tests to check for narrowed arteries and coronary artery disease. 

Source: Mayo Clinic

Photo Credit: Karolina Grabowska

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