Coronary artery disease (CAD) is also known as coronary heart disease, and it affects your arteries. It is a major cause of death in the United States.
What is the difference between coronary heart disease and coronary artery disease?
The terms “coronary artery disease” and “coronary heart disease” are often used interchangeably, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. They are not the same thing.
Coronary heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions that can be caused by narrowed or blocked blood vessels. Coronary artery spasms can be another cause, but that’s rare, according to the CDC.
It may also refer to conditions caused by damage or injury to your coronary arteries. These include an enlarged left ventricle (hypertrophy), which happens when your left ventricle has to pump harder because of reduced blood flow through your coronary arteries.
What are the causes of Coronary Artery Disease?
When the coronary arteries become narrowed or blocked, it’s called coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is responsible for most heart attacks as well as other problems such as angina and arrhythmia.
The causes of CAD can be broken down into three types:
- Hardening or blocking of the coronary arteries (atherosclerosis): Cholesterol from fat in your blood sticks to the walls of your arteries and builds up over time, restricting blood flow. This is usually a gradual process that occurs over many years.
- Tearing or damage to the inner lining of the coronary arteries (caused by inflammation): An injury to an artery wall, such as a tear, may cause blood clot formation that interrupts blood flow. A spasm in a diseased artery may also interrupt blood flow or reduce it dramatically.
- Coronary Artery Spasm: Spasms are sudden contractions of an artery wall that can lead to chest pain and sometimes even sudden death due to reduced or interrupted blood flow through the artery.
What are the symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease?
You may have CAD and not even know it. Early symptoms of CAD may be hard to notice. As the plaque slowly builds up, you may feel breathless with mild exertion (like climbing stairs, walking uphill, or carrying groceries). You might also have some chest pain or tightness that quickly goes away. Over time, these warning signs become more noticeable. When they do, they are called angina (ang-gih-na). The most common sign of angina is chest pain or discomfort that feels like a squeezing or fullness in your chest. This can happen when you exert yourself (like walking up a hill) or when you’re under emotional stress. Other symptoms include:
- Tightening in your chest
- Pain in one or both arms
- Pain in the back
- Jaw pain
- Shortness of breath
How is Coronary Artery Disease diagnosed?
Coronary artery disease is diagnosed with a variety of tests. An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) can detect evidence of heart damage, and an exercise stress test can help find evidence of coronary artery disease. An echocardiogram can show the pumping ability of the heart and how much blood it pumps per minute, a good indicator of how severe coronary artery disease is.
The most definitive test is the angiogram, in which dye is injected into the coronary arteries so they can be seen on x-rays. Coronary angioplasty uses a catheter to open up blocked arteries by inflating a balloon and placing a stent inside that stays open to keep the artery from closing again.
Who is at risk of developing Coronary Artery Disease?
In the general population, a heart attack is typically the result of atherosclerosis (obstruction and narrowing of an artery) in the coronary arteries—the main arteries that supply oxygenated blood to your heart. Many people who experience this life-threatening event never have any symptoms present or have only minor symptoms. It’s still important to get regular medical checkups, especially if you are over thirty years old, overweight, smoke cigarettes, or do not exercise regularly.
Coronary artery disease can develop gradually over time, with fatty deposits forming in the walls of your arteries. If you have risk factors for coronary artery disease that include high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, although you might not necessarily have even experienced symptoms yet; it is advisable to get screened annually in a doctor’s office at least once during middle age.
Treatment for Coronary Artery Disease
Treatment for Coronary Artery Disease includes lifestyle changes. That’s a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in saturated fat. You would also add regular physical activity, quit smoking, and control blood pressure if you have it. There are medications your doctors may prescribe to lower cholesterol or blood pressure when you have coronary artery disease.
Coronary artery bypass grafting is surgery that redirects oxygen-rich blood around a blocked artery in the heart by using a healthy blood vessel from another part of your body if you have complete blockage of an artery or more than one artery blocked. It’s called heart bypass surgery or CABG (pronounced “cabbage”). This procedure was developed in 1960 and has been performed on more than 2 million patients since then at least once with good results. A major risk of heart bypass surgery is having a stroke. Patients with blocked arteries near the brain’s main arteries are at high risk for stroke during bypass surgery, so many cardiologists will use other procedures first before considering this operation for their patients with those conditions.
The good news is that, with the right lifestyle choices and medical treatment, you can live a heart-healthy life even after a heart attack.
Robotic cardiac surgery is now the preferred procedure to treat several conditions. Surgeons at some of the best heart hospitals in India prefer robotic surgery for:
- Remove cardiac tumors
- Treat malformations in the heart
- Perform a CABG
- Repair or replace heart valves