What Is Coronary Artery Disease?
Coronary artery disease (CAD) develops when the arteries that supply blood to your heart become diseased or damaged. This damage occurs due to buildup of cholesterol deposits and other materials called plaque in the inner walls of your arteries.
There are three primary coronary arteries located on the surface of the heart. These arteries provide oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to your heart. Like any other organ or muscle, your heart must receive an adequate and dependable supply of blood in order for it to carry out its work.
With the buildup of plaque, your coronary arteries narrow, decreasing the blood flow to your heart. This decreased blood flow may cause chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, or other CAD symptoms. A complete blockage (100%) may also cause a heart attack.
The development of CAD is a slow process that may take decades, you might not notice the symptoms until you have a significant blockage or a heart attack. Living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in preventing and helping with Coronary Artery Disease.
What increases the risk of CAD?
It is good to consult with your doctor if you have the following risk factors for CAD:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Diabetes or insulin resistance
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Tobacco use
- A strong family history of heart disease.
The risk of developing CAD increases with age.
What are the most common symptoms of CAD?
When there is a blockage in your coronary arteries, you might experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Chest pain (Angina)
- Burning sensation
- A squeezing sensation around the heart
- Shortness of breath
- Heart attack
Depending on the buildup of plaque and percentage of blockage, the intensity and number of symptoms may vary. The number of symptoms you experience may increase when the blood flow to your heart is more restricted. If the blood supply is cut off completely or almost completely, it may result in a heart attack.
Some of these symptoms are often mistaken as heartburn or indigestion. They mustn’t be ignored, especially if they are excruciating or last longer than five minutes or if they wake up a person from sleep. Immediate medical treatment is necessary. Remember, prevention is better than cure.