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Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease which develops when the coronary arteries become damaged or diseased. CAD happens when the arteries that supply blood to heart muscle become hardened and narrowed due to the buildup of plaque on the inner walls. This buildup is called atherosclerosis and as it grows only less amount of blood can flow through the arteries resulting in less amount of blood or oxygen to the heart muscle. This can lead to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack. Heart attacks mostly occur when a blood clot cuts off the hearts' blood supply suddenly causing permanent damage to the heart.

The signs of Coronary artery disease are

  • Chest Pain: It is a feeling of discomfort or pains that one feels anywhere along the front of the body between the neck and upper abdomen. It is usually triggered by physical or emotional stress and it usually goes away after you take rest.
  • Heart attack When a coronary artery becomes completely blocked by a clot suddenly, you may have a heart attack. The signs of a heart attack include crushing pressure in the chest and pain in the arm along with shortness of breath and sweating.
  • Shortness of breath If the heart can't pump enough blood, due to the narrowing of the blood vessels, to meet the body's needs, you may develop shortness of breath.

The causes for Coronary artery disease are

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes

Coronary artery disease can be treated by changing your lifestyle and, if necessary, drugs and certain medical procedures.

  • Lifestyle Changes: A healthy lifestyle will result in healthier arteries:
    • Quit smoking.
    • Eat healthy foods.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Lose excess weight.
    • Reduce stress.
  • Drugs:
    • Beta blockers: They help to lower your blood pressure by slowing the heart rate.
    • Cholesterol-modifying medications: It decreases the amount of cholesterol in the blood, especially low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or the "bad") cholesterol, thus decreasing the primary material that deposits on the coronary arteries.
    • Aspirin: It reduces the chances of a blood clot thus help prevent obstruction of the coronary arteries. Aspirin can help prevent future attacks if you have already had one.
    • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. These drugs relaxes the blood vessels.
    • Calcium channel blockers: They relax and widen blood vessels by affecting the muscle cells in the arterial walls.
  • Surgical procedures to restore and improve blood flow
    • Angioplasty and stenting: During an angioplasty a tiny balloon is inserted into the narrowed artery and when the balloon is inflated it widens the artery, and then a stent is inserted to keep the artery open. This method improves blood flow in the heart thus reducing angina.
    • Coronary artery bypass surgery: In this procedure a graft is created to bypass blocked coronary arteries using a vessel from another part of the body. This allows blood to flow around the blocked or narrowed coronary artery.