How does coronary artery disease affect my body?

coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD) remains the leading cause of death in America, affecting nearly 1 in 10 people aged 40 to 80 and about 1 in 5 people under 65. CAD occurs when the arteries (coronary arteries), which supply blood to the heart, become narrowed due to plaque buildup. This buildup is called atherosclerosis.

As it grows, less blood can flow through the arteries. As a result, the heart muscle struggles to get enough blood, oxygen, and nutrients, leading to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack.

What are the forms of coronary artery disease?

There are two forms of CAD:

Stable ischemic heart disease. A gradual narrowing of coronary arteries characterizes this chronic form. As a result, the heart gets less oxygen-rich blood. However, the individual may experience some symptoms, but it is possible to live with such a condition.

Acute coronary syndrome. This is a sudden form that requires urgent medical attention. The plaque in the coronary artery forms a blood clot that blocks blood flow and causes a heart attack.

Coronary artery disease symptoms

CAD develops gradually, and symptoms may go unnoticed. Once the heart gets less oxygen-rich blood, the symptoms may become more frequent. The person may experience the following signs and symptoms of coronary artery disease:

  • Stable angina. This is the most common symptom. The individual may feel temporary chest pain or discomfort on the middle or left side of the chest. Physical activity or strong stress may trigger angina, lasting for several minutes after the triggering event ends.
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea). It can be hard to breathe, especially during light physical activity.
  • Fatigue. Because the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, the person may feel unusually tired.
  • Heart attack. Crushing chest pain or pressure, shoulder or arm pain, shortness of breath, and sweating are classic heart attack symptoms. Women may have less typical symptoms, such as neck or jaw pain, nausea, and fatigue. However, some heart attacks don’t cause any noticeable signs or symptoms.

How does CDA affect the body?

Coronary artery disease can be the reason for heart attack. Because of a lack of blood flow, the heart muscle starts to die. To restore blood flow to the heart and save a life, seek prompt medical attention. Additionally, CDA weakens the heart and causes complications. They include:

  • Heart failure
  • cardiac arrest
  • cardiogenic shock
  • atrial fibrillation.

Causes of coronary artery disease

Atherosclerosis is the main reason for coronary artery disease, as it causes the gradual buildup of plaque in arteries throughout the body. It continues to gather along the artery walls, making them narrow and stiff. The buildup plaque consists of cholesterol, waste products, calcium, and fibrin (a substance that helps your blood clot).

Plaque damages the arteries and limits blood flow to specific body parts. As a result, the heart muscle cannot get enough oxygen-rich blood and nutrients it needs to work correctly. This condition is called myocardial ischemia, which causes angina (chest discomfort) and puts at risk for a heart attack.

Usually, when people have plaque buildup in their coronary arteries often have buildup elsewhere in their body, too. It can lead to carotid artery disease and peripheral artery disease.

Tests that help diagnose coronary artery disease

There are a lot of tests that may help to assess heart function and diagnose CAD. These include:

Blood tests

It allows one to check the blood for substances that harm arteries or increase the risk of CAD.

Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG)

Records your heart’s electrical activity can detect old or current heart attacks, ischemia, and heart rhythm issues. With the help of an EKG monitor for home use, patients can keep an eye on heart health throughout the day and detect potential abnormalities in the heart’s electrical activity at an early stage.

Cardiac catheterization

It is known as the gold standard for diagnosing CAD. By inserting tubes into the coronary arteries, the doctor can evaluate or confirm CAD.
Coronary calcium scan. This test allows the provider to measure the amount of calcium in the walls of coronary arteries. It is the first sign of atherosclerosis. However, this test doesn’t determine how significant the blockage is, but it helps to assess the risk for CAD.

Computed tomography (CT) coronary angiogram

This method allows the contrasting dye to view 3D pictures of the heart as it moves and detects blockages in coronary arteries.

Echocardiogram (echo)

Allows to evaluate the heart’s structure and function.

Exercise stress test

It checks how the heart responds when it’s working very hard. For example, it can detect angina and blockages in your coronary arteries.

There are a lot of risk factors for coronary artery disease and some of them are impossible to control. However, some factors can be controlled by making lifestyle changes or taking medications. Visit your healthcare provider to talk about the risk factors and how you can manage them. Some people may also benefit from a procedure or surgery.

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