Coronary artery disease (CAD) also known as coronary heart disease or ischemic heart disease occurs when there is impaired blood flow in the major blood vessels that supply blood to the heart due to damage and / or disease.
Coronary arteries supply oxygen, blood and nutrients to the heart. Cholesterol-containing deposits (plaques) can build up in these arteries, narrowing them and decreasing blood flow to your heart. The reduced blood flow to the heart may eventually cause shortness of breath, angina (chest pain) or other CAD symptoms. When CAD is uncontrolled, it can lead to a heart attack.
Causes of Coronary Heart Disease
Cholesterol plaque build-up is the most common cause of CAD. CAD begins when there is damage or injury to the inner layer of a coronary artery. When the inner layer of the artery is damaged, plaque or fatty deposits and other waste products collect at the site of the injury. This is known as atherosclerosis. If the surface of the plaque ruptures, platelets clump at the site so as to repair the artery. The clamping can block the artery and lead to a possible heart attack.
Symptoms of Coronary Heart Disease
When the heart fails to get enough arterial blood, you may experience Angina, chest pain or discomfort. For many individuals the first sign that they have CAD is a heart attack. The symptoms include:
- Light-headedness, weakness, nausea or a cold sweat
- Chest discomfort or pain (angina)
- Discomfort or pain in the shoulder, arms, jaw or neck (this can happen without feeling any chest pain or discomfort)
- Shortness of breath
- Breakout in a cold sweat
CAD can weaken the heart muscle over time, which may lead to heart failure which is a serious condition whereby the heart fails to pump blood as it should.
Diagnosis of Coronary Artery Disease
Diagnosing CAD requires for your doctor to review your medical history, perform a physical examination and other medical tests which include:
- Electrocardiogram: This test is used for monitoring the electrical signals that pass through your heart and can tell if you’ve had a heart attack.
- Echocardiogram: This is an imaging test that uses ultrasound waves to create a picture of the heart and reveal whether your heart is functioning as it should.
- Stress test: This test measures the stress on your heart during both physical activity and while at rest.
- Cardiac catheterization (left heart catheterization): This involves your doctor injecting a special dye into your coronary arteries. It is done via a catheter that is inserted through an artery in your forearm or groin. The dye helps in identifying any blockages by enhancing the radiographic image of your coronary arteries.
- Heart CT scan: This is used to check for calcifications in the arteries.
Treatment of Coronary Artery Disease
Treatment for CAD includes lifestyle changes, giving up unhealthy habits and food, and introducing exercise to your routine. If necessary, medications and certain medical procedures may be recommended depending on the severity of the condition.
Lifestyle changes include:
- Quitting habits like smoking
- Eating healthy diet
- Losing of excess weight (if you are overweight)
- Exercising on a regular basis
- Reducing stress by avoiding high stress factors that may affect you
Medication may include therapy to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or medication to control blood sugar if you have diabetes.
If the lifestyle changes and medication do not improve the heart’s condition, then the doctor may recommend a procedure which will increase blood flow to your heart. The procedures may include:
- Balloon angioplasty to reduce the calcification or plaque build-up and widen the blocked arteries.
- Coronary artery bypass graft surgery to restore blood flow to the heart via open heart surgery.
- Enhanced external counter pulsation to stimulate the formation of new small blood vessels that will naturally bypass clogged arteries in a non-invasive procedure.
At King’s College Hospital Dubai, we focus on offering an exemplary service from initial consultation through to the final diagnosis and treatment and beyond. Our team of expert doctors and nurses are here to offer tailored management and treatment of your condition, and to answer any questions that you might have throughout your time with us. Whatever you need us for, we’re only a phone-call away.
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