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Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease occurs when the blood vessels supplying your heart are damaged. Cholesterol in the coronary arteries and inflammation are usually the first causes.

Coronary Artery Disease

¿What is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary arteries are those that carry blood with oxygen to our hearts.

When these arteries are obstructed by the accumulation of fatty deposits inside them, so they are unable to supply the heart with blood adequately, it is known as Coronary Artery Disease. If the heart is not getting the amount of blood and oxygen it needs, it can cause chest pain (Angina), Arrhythmia, or Heart Failure

The build-up of this plaque of fat, cholesterol, and other substances in the arteries of the heart can even lead to a Heart-Attack, resulting many times in permanent heart damage. This is the most common disease as well as, unfortunately, the biggest cause of death in both men and women in the USA.

Causes of Coronary Artery Disease

Following are some of the possible causes: 

Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease

Symptoms regularly vary from person to person. Over time, as the arteries become blocked, it can appear:

  • Chest discomfort or pain (Angina)

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Tension or several pains in the arms, shoulders, neck, jaw, and back

  • Fluid retention in the feet

  • Extreme tiredness and fatigue after exercise

  • Excessive sweating

  • Nausea

  • Cramps

  • Weakness

  • Shortness of breath from any form of physical activity because the heart is not getting enough oxygen

Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease

  • Strong family history of heart disease

  • Obesity

  • Hypertension

  • High cholesterol

  • Excessive alcohol and cigarette consumption

  • Diabetes or insulin resistance

  • Sedentary lifestyle

  • High stress

  • Age: As we get older, the risk of damage to our arteries increases

When you have two or more risk factors, your risk of coronary artery disease is higher. If you know or feel that you have any of these symptoms or risk factors, do not hesitate to discuss them with your Cardiologist. He/she will most likely recommend you undergo some tests to detect or discard Coronary Artery Disease.

Diagnosis of Coronary Artery Disease

There is no unique test to diagnose Coronary Arteries Disease because several factors play a role. Your Cardiologist will likely perform a physical exam, listen to your heart, and ask you some questions about your lifestyle, family history, and medical conditions that will determine if there is a need to order more tests to detect or rule out Coronary Artery Disease. 

Some of the most common studies are:

  • Electrocardiogram: It records the electrical activity and rhythm of the heart; an EKG may reveal evidence of a previous or ongoing heart attack.

  • Holter monitor: A particular portable device is placed under your clothing for 1-2 days to keep track of your heart's activity while you go about your daily activities.

  • Stress test: It analyzes how the heart works before and after a physical effort. The Cardiologist will put you on a treadmill, on a stationary bike, or give you some heart-boosting medication.

  • Blood tests: Usually used to measure and monitor blood cholesterol levels

  • Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram determines if all parts of the heart are naturally contributing to the heart's pumping of blood and oxygen by using sound waves to produce images of the heart organ.

Treatment of Coronary Artery Disease

The first thing to consider is that if you already know that you have Coronary Artery Disease, you have to learn to be aware of what the potential risk is, and it is under your control to reduce it.

Diet, exercise, and quitting smoking are some examples.

Your body may need more time to make noticeable progress, but for this reason, your doctor will keep track and tell you what medications can help control this condition.

Cholesterol-modifying medications: your Cardiologist will tell you if you need to take them and which ones, these will reduce plaque in the coronary arteries especially known as bad cholesterol (LDL).

Beta-blockers: These are used to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. They are especially recommended for people who previously had a heart attack.

Angioplasty: This is a procedure used to restore blood flow through the artery that has become narrowed. The Cardiologist inserts a catheter that has a small balloon on one side. Once in place, the balloon is inflated to push the plaque that has been generated against the artery wall, thus widening the artery.

Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery: The specialist surgeon creates a graft to make a bypass in the blocked coronary arteries with a blood vessel from another part of the body. 

You must consider regular Check-Ups with your Cardiologist, because early detection of Coronary Artery Disease is fundamental to prevent more severe consequences.

Living with Coronary Arteries Disease

When you have already been diagnosed with Coronary Artery Disease, follow the treatment provided by your Cardiologist.

Some things to consider that could help improve the quality of life are:

  • Find out about your illness

  • Eat healthily

  • Do not smoke

  • Attend your appointments with the Cardiologist

  • Take the medications provided by your Cardiologist

  • Do regular and continue exercise

¿When do you have to see a doctor?

Go to the Cardiologist in case of presenting any of the mentioned symptoms or if you detect another abnormal sign.

When consulting your Cardiologist, try to keep a record of your pain with a detailed description of the symptoms, duration, and what you think triggered them. Also, mention any medications you are taking.

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