Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is one of the most common type of heart disease and is a leading cause of death amongst industrialised nations globally, along with cancer. CAD occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle become narrowed by a build-up of plaque, which consists of cholesterol and other substances. Plaque buildup causes the inside of the arteries to narrow, potentially leading to a risk of partial or total blockage of blood flow through the arteries. If this happens, the heart muscle is unable to get the blood or oxygen it needs to function correctly. This can lead to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack. Most heart attacks happen when a blood clot suddenly cuts off the hearts' blood supply, causing permanent heart damage.
Understanding the risk factors for CAD can help with your plan to prevent or decrease the likelihood of developing the disease. It’s important to reduce or control your risk factors and seek treatment to lower the chance of a heart attack.
Risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol levels
- Diabetes mellitus
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Obstructive sleep apnea
Diagnosing CAD requires a review of your medical history, a physical examination, and other medical testing. These tests include:
- Stress test
- Coronary angiography
- CT scan of the coronary arteries
Treatment of CAD includes lifestyle changes and medication. If your symptoms do not improve or you have some high risk features, your doctor may recommend a procedure to increase blood flow to your heart. These procedures include:
- Percutaneous coronary intervention (stent placement)
- Coronary artery bypass grafting (surgical procedure)