Coronary artery disease, also known as CAD, is the most common form of heart disease. The arteries leading to the heart begin to narrow and harden as a result of a buildup of cholesterol and plaque in the arterial walls. The decrease in blood flow reduces the amount of oxygen and blood going to the heart.
A patient may experience angina, more commonly known as chest pain, as a result of the decrease in blood flow. It's possible the person will experience a tightness or pressure in the chest, as opposed to a sharp pain. However, the patient, especially if she is a female, may feel pain in the arm, back, or neck. Both physical and emotional stress may trigger angina. The heart isn't able to get enough oxygen circulating throughout the body, meaning it's not able to meet the body's needs, resulting in shortness of breath or even extreme fatigue with exertion.
Although it's not a guarantee that a coronary artery disease diagnoses mean a person will have a heart attack, it's possible if the artery becomes completely blocked.
One of the main causes of coronary artery disease is atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque in the arteries, sometimes as a result of a person having high cholesterol. Besides atherosclerosis, other factors increase a person's likelihood of developing this cardiovascular condition. For instance, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, or leading a sedentary lifestyle all increase a person's risk.
Women are more prone to developing coronary artery disease after menopause, but men are generally more at risk. As a person ages, his or her risk increases due to damaged or narrowed arteries. Those with a family history or who are obese are more at risk as well.
Dr. Ellen Mellow will diagnose the patient's condition using an echocardiogram, an angiogram, CT scan, or cardiac catheterization. Next, she will recommend lifestyle changes. She may prescribe medications to decrease cholesterol, reduce angina, lower blood pressure, slow the person's heart rate, or reduces blood clots. In more serious cases, angioplasty and a stent may be performed. Coronary artery bypass surgery will bypass the blocked artery, so the blood flows around the blocked one.