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Types of Coronary Artery Diseases

Types of Coronary Artery Diseases

What Are Coronary Artery Diseases?

Coronary artery disease stems 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 occur.

What Are The Types Of Coronary Artery Diseases?

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 coronary microvascular disease. 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. When it happens acutely, heart attack occurs and this requires medical attention.

To treat obstructive coronary artery diseases, cardiac catheterization can be used to look for arteries that have narrowed or been blocked. This is the best way to determine severity and urgency. To prevent mistakes, a specialized technique that is called fractional flow reserve is used. This allows doctors to look inside the artery to create images through sound and light waves.

Nonobstructive 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.

Another thing about nonobstructive coronary art disease is that the damage to the inner walls can cause spasms called vasospasm. 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, weight loss, and regular intake of medicines such as aspirin and statins.

Coronary Microvascular Disease

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

What Are The 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. When the buildup happens in the arteries, 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 high blood pressure or diabetes. Another potential cause may be changes brought about by the aging process since it affects genes and proteins inside the cells.

What Are The 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 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:

  • weakness or light-headedness
  • Nausea
  • pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder
  • shortness of breath

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.

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 Jun 11
Medically reviewed by Mike-Kenneth Go Doratan, M.D.