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Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. CHD is also called coronary artery disease.
Complications of Coronary Artery Disease
If coronary artery disease (CAD) is not diagnosed and treated, it can lead to serious heart conditions, including the following:
Causes of Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary heart disease is caused by any problem with the coronary arteries that keeps the heart from getting enough oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood. The most common cause is atherosclerosis which occurs when fatty material and a substance called plaque builds up on the walls of your arteries. This causes them to get narrow. As the coronary arteries narrow, blood flow to the heart can slow down or stop, causing chest pain (stable angina), shortness of breath, heart attack, and other symptoms. Lack of sufficient blood is called ischemia, so coronary heart disease is sometimes called ischemic heart disease.
Signs & Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease
Symptoms may be very noticeable, but sometimes you can have the disease and not have any symptoms. Chest pain or discomfort (angina) is the most common symptom. You feel this pain when the heart is not getting enough blood or oxygen. How bad the pain is varies from person to person. It may feel heavy or like someone is squeezing your heart. You feel it under your breast bone (sternum), but also in your neck, arms, stomach, or upper back. The pain usually occurs with activity or emotion, and goes away with rest or a medicine called nitroglycerin. Other symptoms include shortness of breath and fatigue with activity (exertion). Women, elderly people, and people with diabetes are more likely to have symptoms other than chest pain, such as:
Diagnosis of Coronary Artery Disease
Treatments of Coronary Artery Disease
Therapeutic options for coronary artery disease today are based on three principles:
1. Medical treatment - drugs (e.g. cholesterol lowering medications, beta-blockers, nitroglycerin, calcium, antagonists, etc.);
2. Coronary interventions as angioplasty and coronary stent-implantation;
3. Coronary artery bypasses grafting (CABG - coronary artery bypass surgery).
When to seek Medical Advice
If you suspect you're having a heart attack, immediately call 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 resort. If you have risk factors for coronary artery disease — such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or obesity — talk to your doctor. He or she may want to test you for the condition, especially if you have signs or symptoms of narrowed arteries. Even if you don't have evidence of coronary artery disease, your doctor may recommend aggressive treatment of your risk factors. Early diagnosis and treatment may stop progression of coronary artery disease and help prevent a heart attack.
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