In America, Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, and it is estimated that someone has a heart attack every 36 seconds. Reading Cardiology Associates provide a full range of comprehensive diagnoses and treatment to stop the progression of coronary artery disease. Our specialists also perform innovative procedures to improve blood flow to the heart. Call our offices or schedule an appointment online for preventative care and effective treatment plans. We are glad to help.
What Is Coronary Artery Disease?
Coronary artery disease is also known as coronary heart disease (CHD), ischemic heart disease and heart disease.
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is caused by plaque buildup in the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the body. Plaque comprises fatty substances, cholesterol, calcium, waste products and other materials. This causes narrowing or blockage and stiffening of the coronary arteries limiting blood flow, nutrients and oxygen to the heart muscle in a process known as atherosclerosis (which is the hardening of the arteries).
Sometimes, plaque can rupture. When this happens, blood cells try to repair damage to the artery, which may lead to a blood clot formation. In some cases, CAD can lead to a heart attack. CAD presents itself through, chest pain (angina), chest pain (angina) or discomfort.
What are the symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease?
Angina (chest pain) is the most common symptom of CAD which is linked to heart disease. You may feel discomfort in the chest, shoulders, arms jaw or back. You may also experience the following:
The symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for indigestion and heartburn. Other symptoms include:
CAD can lead to shortness of breath making you gasp or pant for air. If the symptoms mentioned above last for more than five minutes, seek immediate medical attention.
What Causes Coronary Artery Disease?
CAD is caused by plaque build-up in the coronary arteries and other body parts which causes decreased blood flow when one or more arteries become blocked. The blockage may be complete or partial. There are various causes and risk factors associated with CAD including:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- History of preeclampsia during pregnancy
- Alcohol and smoking
- Unhealthy meals
- High triglycerides
- Diabetes or insulin resistance
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Family history of CHD
- High lipoprotein levels
- Obesity or overweight
- Certain autoimmune conditions
- Age (men over 45 years and women from 55 years)
How Does a Doctor Diagnose Coronary Artery Disease?
During your consultation, your cardiologist may conduct a physical exam, take your family history, order blood tests, and do medical testing. The following tests may be conducted include and are not limited to:
Echocardiogram: The test utilizes sound waves that create images of the heartbeat to show blood flow through the heart’s valve.
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This test measures electrical activity, and assesses heart damage.
Coronary artery CT scan: Shows calcium buildup, and plaque and also checks for blockages.
Electrocardiogram (ECG OR EKG): This measures electrical activity in the heart. The slow or fast heartbeats determine if there is a risk of a heart attack.
Holter monitoring: The test involves wearing a portable ECG to continuously record the heart’s rhythm between 24 to 72 hours. The monitoring helps detect heart rhythm problems not found in an ECG exam.
Blood test: This is used to check blood sugar levels, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels.
Cardiac catheterization: This checks the insides of the arteries for blockages using a thin, flexible tube (known as a catheter) through a blood vessel in the leg, arm or neck to reach your heart. Your healthcare provider injects medical dye through the catheter using X-ray videos to see inside your heart using X-ray videos.
Chest X-ray: This creates pictures of the heart, lungs, and other chest organs.
Exercise stress test: Is used to measure your heart rate as you walk on a treadmill to determine how well your heart is working when pumping blood.
Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This test checks heart damage.
Is There an Effective Treatment for Coronary Artery Disease?
Technically, there is no cure for CAD however, you can take steps to manage the condition. It is essential to reduce or control your risk factors and get medical attention to minimize your chances of heart disease or stroke. Treatment depends on your current health condition, risk factors and overall body health and may include the following:
Make positive lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke such as:
- Quitting smoking
- Regular exercise
- Adopt a healthy meal plan low in added sugar, salt, and saturated fats
- Stop alcohol consumption
- Lose excessive weight and maintain a healthy weight
- Stress management
If there is no improvement after lifestyle changes, your doctor may prescribe medicines to improve heart and overall body health. These may include Beta blockers, anticoagulants (blood thinners), anti-clotting medicine, aspirin, ACE inhibitors, nitroglycerin patches or tablets, calcium channel blockers, immunosuppressants, or statins.
Surgery may be recommended if you are not responding to medication and lifestyle changes. Surgery opens or replaces blocked arteries to increase blood flow to your heart. Procedures include:
Balloon Angioplasty: This helps open up blocked or narrowed arteries without opening up the chest. The procedure involves the insertion of a catheter with a balloon into a narrowed artery then the balloon is inflated to open the artery for increased blood flow. A stent may be placed to keep the artery open after the procedure.
Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting: During the procedure, surgeons use blood vessels from other body parts like the leg to bypass the blocked artery. This restores blood flow to the heart. This type of open surgery is a major procedure and is usually the last resort.
Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP): This is a non-invasive procedure whereby; inflatable cuffs are used to squeeze blood vessels in your lower body to stimulate the formation of new small blood vessels to naturally bypass blocked coronary arteries. This improves blood flow to the heart. EECP can also help those who can’t have bypass or invasive procedures and can’t get sufficient relief from medication.