Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle. Like all other tissues in the body, the heart muscle needs oxygen-rich blood to function, and oxygen-depleted blood must be carried away. The coronary arteries consist of two main arteries: the right and left coronary arteries. The left coronary artery system branches into the circumflex artery and the left anterior descending artery.

Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease

Risk factors for Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) often include:

  • high LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides levels and reduced HDL cholesterol
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • physical inactivity
  • smoking
  • obesity
  • high saturated fat diet
  • diabetes

Controlling risk factors for coronary artery disease is the key to preventing illness and death.

Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease

The symptoms of coronary artery disease will depend on the severity of the disease. Some persons with CAD have no symptoms, some have episodes of mild chest pain or angina, and some have more severe chest pain.

If too little oxygenated blood reaches the heart, a person will experience chest pain called angina. When the blood supply is completely cut off, the result is a heart attack, and the heart muscle begins to die. Some persons may have a heart attack and never recognize the symptoms. This is called a "silent" heart attack.

When symptoms of coronary artery disease are present, each person may experience them differently. Symptoms of coronary artery disease may include:

  • heaviness, tightness, pressure, and/or pain in the chest - behind the breastbone
  • pain radiating in the arms, shoulders, jaw, neck, and/or back
  • shortness of breath
  • weakness and fatigue

Diagnosis of Coronary Artery Disease

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for coronary artery disease may include an electrocardiogram, stress test, cardiac catheterization or nuclear scanning.

Treatment for Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease treatment may include modification of risk factors, medications, coronary angioplasty or coronary artery bypass. Specific coronary artery disease treatment will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your signs and symptoms
  • your tolerance of specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

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