Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment for Coronary Artery Disease

May 30, 2019

The arteries are the components responsible for oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. Coronary artery disease is a severe condition leading to weakened blood flow in the arteries supplying blood to the heart. The medical condition is also called coronary heart disease. The disease builds up when waxy cholesterol and fatty deposits (plaque) collect inside the coronary arteries. This build-up of plaque in the arteries occurs over a number of years, and the condition is also called atherosclerosis. In atherosclerosis, the coronary arteries narrow and supplying oxygen-rich blood to the heart (when beating hard) is extremely difficult. It is not safe for a person to go any strenuous activity like running, jogging, lifting anything heavy, basically, exercise.

Coronary Artery Disease Symptoms

Initially, the decrease in blood flow may or may not cause any coronary artery disease; however, as the plaque prevails to build up in the arteries, the signs become evident. Some of the most common symptoms of coronary heart disease are-
  1. Chest Pain (Angina)- During angina, the patient may feel like something heavy is pressing against the chest. There is a sort of tightness which may feel like someone is standing on the chest. In medical terms, doctors name this condition as angina; one may feel the pain on the left side or middle of the chest. The most common reasons for angina are physical or emotional stress. Most of the times, the pain would go away within minutes of stopping the exerting activity; however, in women, the pain can be too much to handle. One may also feel it around the arms, back or neck.
  2. Shortness of Breath- This is evident when the heart is unable to pump enough blood for circulation around the body. The patient may develop extreme fatigue or shortness of breath caused due to excessive exertion.
  3. Heart Attack- In the case of complete artery blockage, the patient may suffer from a heart attack. Some of the signs of a heart attack include crushing pressure against the chest, pain in the shoulder/arm, which may sometime occur due to shortness of breath and sweating. Also, sometimes, the heart attack may occur without any significant signs or symptoms.
Other symptoms are faster heartbeat, dizziness, sweating, and nausea.

Coronary Artery Disease Diagnosis

During the course of diagnosing your disease, the doctor will check your medical history, conduct a series of tests and order routine check-ups as well. Some of the diagnostic tests he may suggest you are-
  1. Electrocardiogram (ECG)- An ECG records electrical signals that travel through the heart. It reveals the evidence of a heart attack previously.
  2. Echocardiogram- An echocardiogram makes the use of sound waves and produces images of the heart. During this process, the doctor determines whether all parts of the heart are functioning and are assisting the heart's pumping activity.
  3. Stress test- During the course of your ECG, the doctor may ask you to go for a bike ride or walk on a treadmill to understand the stress you are going through. In some cases, one may require medication to stimulate the heart.
  4. Cardiac catheterisation or angiogram- During cardiac catheterisation, the doctor inserts a special dye inside the coronary arteries, which is known as the angiogram. To complete the procedure, the doctor adds the long, thin, flexible catheter through an artery (of the leg) to the artery of the heart.
  5. Heart Scan- The doctor may also advise you to get a heart scan like Computerized tomography (CT) done to identify the calcium component in your arteries. The body has about 1% of the calcium content, and the rest other is in the teeth. In case the calcium content is higher than that, it may be alarming.

Coronary Artery Disease Treatment

Here are a few things that one must do for treatment of the coronary artery disease-
  1. Lifestyle changes like quitting bad habits, including smoking and drinking, eating healthy, exercising regularly and reducing stress.
  2. Medical and surgical procedures to improve blood flow. These include coronary artery bypass surgery and angioplasty and stent placement.
  3. Use of drugs to treat coronary artery disease like cholesterol-modifying medications, beta blockers, aspirin, nitroglycerin, etc.
Coronary artery disease is a serious one and can be life-threatening. If you feel any of the symptoms, visit a doctor at the earliest.  

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