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Coronary Artery Disease: All You Need to Know

What is Coronary Artery Disease?|Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease|Causes of Coronary Artery Disease|Types of Coronary Artery Disease|Key Takeaways
Coronary Artery Disease: All You Need to Know

What is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease stem from the blockage of the coronary arteries, which is normally caused by atherosclerosis or what is known as the hardening or the clogging of the artery or veins. This happens when there is a buildup of plaque or cholesterol on the inner walls of the arteries.

When coronary artery disease is present, blood flow is restricted to the heart muscle. Plaque clogs the artery and causes abnormal artery tone and function. As we know, when there isn’t enough blood going into the heart or body, this becomes a problem as the heart lacks the oxygen it needs to work properly.

When there is a lack of oxygen to the heart, it can lead to a person experiencing chest pains. These chest pains are called angina. When the demands of the heart are greater than what is being supplied, a heart attack may occur. A heart attack happens when injuries to the heart occurs.

Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease

Though there may be different types of coronary heart disease, the symptoms for all tend to be the same. Heart attack is normally the first sign of coronary artery disease for a lot of people.

However, angina or chest pain caused by lack of oxygen to the heart, is normally felt before a heart attack happens so make sure that you are aware when you have constant chest pains as angina is a result of too much plaque build up inside the artery.

Some symptoms of heart attack include:

  • Chest pain or angina
  • Fatigue, dizziness, light fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • e of tingling sensation in either arm (usually the left) or shoulder
  • shortness of breath and cold sweats

Since coronary artery diseases weaken the heart muscle, this can also lead to heart failure. This can cause death if the heart is unable to pump blood when it should.

Causes of Coronary Artery Disease

There are two main causes of coronary artery disease. It occurs when there is plaque buildup or when problems occur that affects the blood vessels.

Plaque buildup is also called atherosclerosis. In people with coronary heart disease, the coronary arteries become clogged with fatty deposits. The deposits cause the coronary arteries to narrow and prevent normal oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart. It becomes narrower and then hardens which reduces the flow of blood to the heart. This leads to coronary artery disease.

The other cause of coronary artery disease are problems that occur that affect the blood vessels. When the blood vessels do not respond to signals being sent out when the heart needs oxygen, this leads to coronary artery disease. The root cause of these problems have not been fully identified but it could possibly involve damage to the walls of the arteries or tiny blood vessels caused by smoking, followed by diabetes, then hypertension. Another potential cause may be changes brought about by the aging process since it affects genes and proteins inside the cells.

Types of Coronary Artery Disease

There are three different types of coronary artery diseases. The first is obstructive coronary artery disease, the second is non-obstructive coronary artery disease, and the last one is called microvascular angina. All these affect the tiny arteries in the heart muscle.

Obstructive Coronary Artery Disease

An obstructive coronary artery disease is also called coronary heart disease. It happens when there is a gradual narrowing or closing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. This is caused by plaque buildup around the heart and can start as early as your teen years.

When the block becomes worse, it will limit or block the flow of oxygen into the heart. Worse, when the fatty plaque ruptures, blood clots can form on the plaque, completely blocking the artery. In this scenario, heart attack occurs and this requires medical attention.

To treat obstructive coronary artery diseases, coronary angiogram (the procedure to visualize your heart arteries) can be used to evaluate which arteries have narrowed or have been blocked. This is the best way to determine severity and urgency.

Non-obstructive Coronary Artery Disease

Non-obstructive coronary artery disease is defined as blood vessels that are less than 70% blocked. It appears to be less threatening than an obstructive coronary artery disease especially on an angiography test. However, recent studies have shown that there is a significant risk for heart attack and death with a nonobstructive coronary artery disease.

Heart attack may result in this setting as a result of focal or diffuse spasm of your coronary arteries (the so-called vasospasm), restricting blood flow to your heart. Chest pains can also happen during times of strenuous physical activity due to increased demands by your heart. This causes arteries to narrow temporarily and block the flow of the blood to the heart.

Preventive therapy is needed if you have been diagnosed with non-obstructive coronary artery disease. This includes quitting smoking if you are a smoker, change in lifestyle and diet, exercising right, and weight loss.

Coronary Microvascular Dysfunction

When the walls of the small arteries of the heart are damaged, this leads to coronary microvascular disease. It is also called the small vessel disease.

This is often diagnosed when doctors find little to no narrowing in the main arteries of the heart even when you show symptoms that suggest heart disease. Sometimes, small plaques can also develop in the small blood vessels in the heart which causes coronary microvascular disease. This is usually a reflection of early damage to your arteries as a result of smoking, high blood cholesterol (hyperlipidemia), hypertension, and diabetes.

This type of coronary artery disease is more common in women as well as people who have high blood pressure or diabetes. Though treatable, it can be difficult to detect.

Key Takeaways

Being diagnosed with coronary artery diseases may be daunting, but with the right treatment and maintenance, a full and healthy life is still possible.

You just need to know what your limitations are and make sure that you adhere to what your medical practitioner would advise.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Kathy Kenny Ylaya Ngo Updated Jul 02, 2021
Medically reviewed by Mike-Kenneth Go Doratan, M.D.