Coronary Artery Disease
The Most Common Cause of Heart Attacks and Heart Disease
Coronary artery disease is known by many names including CAD, atherosclerotic heart disease, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, or ischemic heart disease (IHD). No matter what name you use, it is a disease caused by the build-up of plaque in the walls of the arteries of your heart. Plaque is a waxy, sticky substance that sticks to the walls of your arteries, causing a reduced blood flow to the heart.
As of 2012, CAD was not only the major cause for hospital admissions, but was also the leading cause of death throughout the world. Although some screening is recommended for certain populations, the best way to prevent CAD is by eating a healthy diet and through the use of medications used to treat diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Signs of Coronary Artery Disease
The biggest problem with this disease is that it is a silent disease. By the time you have noticeable symptoms, the CAD is very advanced. In fact, the first symptom is often a “sudden” heart attack. Since the early signs of disease are not visible and the patient does not experience symptoms, the heart attack seems to appear out of nowhere.
When CAD is still in its early stages, it is considered to be in a stable form. Early symptoms of CAD are chest pain when exercising, also known as angina, and a decreased ability to exercise. As the disease progresses, it becomes unstable with symptoms of chest pain at rest and worsening angina.
Risks of Coronary Artery Disease
You are probably wondering who is at risk for CAD. The truth is that it can happen to anyone, but there are certain risk factors that contribute to the disease:
• High cholesterol
• High blood pressure
• Being a man
• Having relatives with CAD
• diabetes and peripheral vascular disease
Diagnosis and Treatment of Coronary Artery Disease
The diagnosis of CAD is relatively easy and not too intrusive. If you doctor suspects CAD, your doctor may order one or more of the following:
• Electrocardiogram (EKG)
• Blood test looking for cardiac markers
• Cardiac stress test
• Coronary angiogram
If you do have CAD, treatment will depend upon your symptoms and the severity of the disease. Early onset CAD can often be treated with medication. Your doctor may also recommend a minor procedure called a percutaneous coronary intervention, also known as an angioplasty. For severe cases of CAD, a coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) may be required.