Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease, affecting millions of Americans each year. CAD is also the leading cause of death in the United States. Fortunately, it is also mostly preventable.
What is Coronary Artery Disease?
Normally, the inner surface of the coronary arteries is smooth, allowing the blood to flow freely to reach the heart muscle. Over time, this surface may change and the arteries become partially or completely blocked by sticky, fatty deposits. As these deposits build up, the arteries narrow, limiting the blood supply to the heart muscle. This is what is known as coronary artery disease.
Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease
If you have coronary artery disease, you may experience symptoms such as chest pain(angina), chest pressure, or shortness of breath. It is important to realize that coronary artery disease can lead to myocardial infarction, more commonly known as a heart attack.
Risk Factors of Coronary Artery Disease
Risk factors are certain conditions or habits that have been shown to contribute to the build-up of fatty deposits in the coronary arteries. There are some risk factors for coronary artery disease that you cannot control such as family history, age and gender. The good news, however, is that you can do a great deal to reduce your risk through healthy lifestyle management. Quitting smoking, regular exercise and a heart healthy diet can significantly reduce your risk for coronary artery disease.
Coronary Artery Disease Treatment
Your doctor will give you detailed information on the best way to help reverse coronary artery disease as well as advice on regaining and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to prevent problems in the future. Lifestyle changes and medication could be enough to treat early coronary artery disease and prevent the need for surgery. Surgical procedures to treat CAD include angioplasty, which widens the coronary arteries to allow adequate blood flow, and coronary artery bypass surgery, which uses veins from other parts of your body to bypass the narrowed coronary arteries.
Learn more about coronary artery disease from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.