coronary artery disease

overview

Coronary artery disease (CAD) develops when fatty deposits called plaque build up in the two major arteries that wrap around the outside of your heart and supply it with oxygen-rich blood. Plaque makes the arteries hard and narrow so it’s hard for blood to flow through them. This can cause angina (chest pain), shortness of breath and even a heart attack.

You’re more likely to develop coronary artery disease if you’re overweight, smoke, or have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Your risk also increases if you have a family history of coronary artery disease.

symptoms

Coronary artery disease develops gradually, so you might not know you have it until it gets severe enough to cause symptoms such as:

  • A fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Angina (pain, heaviness, tightness or pressure in your chest)
  • Extreme weakness or fatigue
  • Light-headedness or fainting
  • Nausea
  • Pain in your arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained perspiration

If you think you’re having a heart attack, call 911. If you have any of the symptoms above, but you don’t think it’s a heart attack, call your doctor.

diagnosis

To diagnose coronary artery disease, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and perform a physical exam. He or she may also order diagnostic tests including: 

services & treatment

If you’re diagnosed with coronary artery disease, your doctor will work with you on a treatment plan tailored to your needs. Your plan may include lifestyle changes such as: 

  • Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains
  • Getting more exercise 
  • Getting your diabetes under control
  • Losing weight 
  • Lowering your blood pressure
  • Lowering your cholesterol
  • Quitting smoking

Your doctor might also prescribe medication such as aspirin to reduce blood clots, beta blockers to improve flow, or cholesterol-lowering medications. 

Your doctor may recommend procedures to improve blood flow in your coronary arteries such as an angioplasty, stenting, or coronary artery bypass surgery.

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