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Coronary-Artery-DiseaseCoronary Artery Disease: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Commonly asked questions about coronary artery disease.

What is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), also known as coronary heart disease (CHD), is the most common cardiovascular problem. It begins when the blood vessels that supply the heart with blood, oxygen and the other nutrients that it needs to survive become diseased or damaged. Generally the main cause of CAD is a cholesterol-based plaque build up on the walls of the arteries.

As the plaque builds up it decreases the ability for blood to flow through your arteries, and in turn decreases the blood flow to the heart. The decreased blood flow can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath and in extreme cases a complete blockage of the artery can result in a heart attack.

What Causes Coronary Artery Disease?

The Mayo Clinic states that it is believed coronary artery disease starts with damage or injury to the inner layer of the artery. This damage can occur at any time including childhood. The damage may be caused by a number of factors including but not limited to high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes or an inactive lifestyle.

When the inner wall of an artery is damaged, deposits of plaque that consist of cholesterol and other waste products begin to form at the area of injury. If the surface of the plaque breaks or ruptures, your body’s blood cells will build up at the site to try and repair the artery. However, by doing so the build up may cause the artery to become blocked, which could lead to having a heart attack.

What Risk Factors are Associated with Coronary Artery Disease?

 

Risk FactorsDescription
AgeGetting older increases your chances to have damaged or narrow arteries.
GenderMen are usually at a greater risk for developing coronary artery disease. However, women’s chances for developing CAD become greater after menopause.
SmokingBoth smoking and long-term exposure to secondhand smoke increase the risk of heart disease.
High Blood PressureIf high blood pressure goes unchecked it can result in the hardening and thickening of your arteries, which in turn narrows the space in which blood can flow.
High Blood Cholesterol LevelsHaving high levels of cholesterol in your blood has been known to increase the risk or plaque formation in the arteries. High blood pressure can be from either too little exposure to good cholesterol and exposure to bad cholesterol.
DiabetesType 2 Diabetes and CAD share similar risk factors such as high blood pressure and obesity.
Overweight/ ObeseHaving excess weight often worsens other risk factors.
Physical InactivityPhysical inactivity can lead to CAD along with several of its other risk factors such as obesity and high cholesterol.
High StressMay damage your arteries and worsen other risk factors.
Family HistoryIf a member of your family has had any form of heart disease it puts you at a greater risk for hear disease as well. Your risk is at the highest if your brother or father had heart disease before the age of 55 or if your mother or sister had it before age 65.

Is Coronary Artery Disease Curable?

According to the NHS, coronary artery disease can not be cured. However, there are things that you can do to help treat it.

What can I do to Help Prevent/Treat Coronary Artery Disease?

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute states a few of the best things that you can do to help prevent coronary heart disease are to eat a heart-healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, getting more physical activity and quitting smoking.

What are some of the Signs/Symptoms of Coronary Heart Disease?

The most common symptoms of coronary heart disease as stated by Health Line are as follows.

  • Chest Pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness of Fatigue
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Indigestion or Heartburn
  • Sweating or Clammy Skin
  • Irregular Heart Beat
  • Heart Attack

What Drugs/Medications are used to Treat Coronary Heart Disease?

According to a list by the Mayo Clinic there are several different kinds of drugs that can be used to help prevent or treat CAD that include:

  • Cholesterol Modifying Medications: By decreasing the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood, these drugs are used on the coronary artery to decrease the primary deposits of plaque present.
  • Aspirin/Blood thinning agent: Taking a daily aspirin or other form of blood thinner will help to reduce the likeliness that you will develop a blood clot.
  • Beta Blockers: These drugs are used to slow your heart rate and decrease your heart’s demand for oxygen as well as decrease your blood pressure.
  • Nitroglycerin: Comes in spray, tablet or patch form and can be used to help handle chest pain by temporarily dilating your arteries to reduce your heart’s demand for blood.
  • ACE inhibitors and ARB Blockers: Used to decrease blood pressure and hopefully stop the progression of CAD.

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View Sources

  1. Mayo Clinic – Symptoms
  2. NHS – Treating Heart Disease
  3. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute – How is CAD Treated
  4. Health Line – Coronary Disease Symptoms
  5. Mayo Clinic – Drugs

 

Resources

 

Roger V, Go A, Lloyd-Jones D, Benjamin E, Berry J, Borden W, Bravata D, Dai S,Ford E, Fox C, Fullerton H, Gillespie C, Hailpern S, Heit J, Howard V, Kissela B, Kittner S, Lackland D, Lichtman JLisabeth LMakuc D, Marcus GMarelli A, Matchar D, Moy C, Mozaffarian D, Mussolino M, Nichol G, Paynter N, Soliman E, Sorlie P, Sotoodehnia NTuran T, Virani S, Wong NWoo D, Turner M, Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2012, 2012, AHA Journals, vol 125(1)

Suwaidi JHamasaki S, Higano S, Nishimura R, Holmes D, Lerman A, Long-Term Follow-Up of Patients with Mild Coronary Artery Disease and Endothelial Dysfunction, 2000, AHA Journals, vol. 101(9)