Coronary Artery Disease
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, we can take many measures to slow it down or even prevent it.
Your coronary arteries are the major blood vessels that supply your heart with necessary blood, oxygen and nutrients.
Normally, the inner surface of the coronary arteries is smooth, allowing the blood to flow freely to reach the heart muscle. However, over time, this surface may change. Sticky, fatty deposits called plaque may partially or completely block the arteries. 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.
If you have coronary artery disease, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Chest pain (angina)
- Chest pressure
- Shortness of breath
Coronary artery disease may lead to myocardial infarction, more commonly known as a heart attack.
Risk factors are certain conditions or habits that may contribute to the buildup 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; as you age, your risk of developing CAD increases.
- Gender; men are more likely to develop CAD, although a woman’s risk increases after menopause.
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.
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. If those treatment options are not sufficient, we may recommend a surgical procedure, including:
- Angioplasty, which widens the coronary arteries to allow adequate blood flow
- Coronary artery bypass surgery, which uses veins from other parts of your body to bypass the narrowed coronary arteries