Coronary heart diseases or the Coronary artery disease is among the popular heart diseases that affects millions across the world. The direct cause of this disease is plaque build-up within the arteries.
So what exactly is the Coronary Artery Disease?
It is a disease that occurs in cases where the smooth elastic inner walls of the arteries gets covered by plaque. These make them rigid and narrower and hence restricts the flow of blood within the heart. Eventually it leads to the body being starved of oxygen. As per findings, it is believed that the plaque can rupture and possibly lead to a sudden cardiac arrest or a heart attack.
What are the reasons behind development of Coronary Artery Disease?
There is no defined age after which the plaque starts developing and entering the blood vessel walls. It may even start from a very young age and get developed as one grows older. With continuous built up, the walls get inflamed and eventually raise the risk of getting blood clots or even heart attacks.
When the process of plaque build-up continues, the inner walls of the blood vessels start becoming very sticky. In such cases, inflammatory cells, calcium, and lipoproteins have the tendency to enter the bloodstream and get mixed up with plaque. With increased cells getting joined over a period of time and cholesterol playing its role, the plaque would increase and further push the artery walls in an outward direction while growing inwards. Hence, the vessels start becoming narrower with time.
Having a narrowed coronary artery means development of new blood vessels that goes around the entire blockage for transporting blood to the heart. Moreover, in cases where an individual remains stressed for longer durations, these newly built arteries may not be able to support delivery of oxygen-rich blood towards the heart muscles. Some quick facts about the development and consequences in different scenarios:
- In cases where the plaque gets ruptured, the blood clot would block the blood supply to the heart muscles and lead to a heart attack.
- In a case where the blood vessel that connects the brain is blocked resulting from a blood clot, there are chances of an ischemic stroke to occur.
- In cases where the blood vessel inside the brain bursts due to uncontrolled hypertension i.e. high BP, there are chances of a hemorrhagic stroke to occur.
As per some studies, it has been noted that consuming low-dose aspirin every day can help in preventing heart attacks or strokes in people above the age of 50 who are at the risk of having a heart attack.
Cardiac Ischemia: Possible Reasons and how to cope up with
Ischemia is a situation where plaque as well as the fatty matter narrows down the arteries to an extent that it is unable to supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. It has the potential to cause heart attacks without any initial symptoms or chest pain. The occasions where Ischemia can happen include:
- Exertions or while exercising
- Stress or unusual excitement
- Severe cold
Coronary artery disease can lead to ischemia in any situation, it may be even while you are resting. It is regarded as a medical emergency and has high chances of resulting in a heart attack. In this case, the 1st and foremost thing to do is get in touch with a doctor or get admitted in an emergency ward. Although, there are no clear warnings for Ischemia to happen, it is likely to occur in people suffering from Diabetes.
Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease
Angina or Chest pain is the most common symptom. It is a scenario that can be described as pressure, heaviness, burning, numbness, aching, fullness, painful feeling, etc. There are chances that it could be mistaken for heartburn or indigestion. Although Angina is mostly felt in the chest, it may also be felt in arms, neck, jaws, left shoulders, back, etc.
Among women, the symptoms are mostly subtler wherein sweating, nausea, shortness of breath or fatigue may add up to a typical pressure like chest pain.
Some of the other common symptoms include:
- Irregular heartbeats or skipped heartbeats
- Shortness of breath
- Very fast heartbeats
- Dizziness or Weakness
Diagnosis of Coronary Artery Disease
Getting checked by your doctor would reveal if you are suffering from coronary artery disease. The doctor evaluates the patient based on the symptoms, risk factors, and medical history.
Medical Test conducted for diagnosis
- ECG or EKG
- Exercise Stress Tests
- Electron Beam CT Scans
- Cardiac Catheterization
By conducting these tests, the doctor can evaluate the extent of damage done due to the coronary heart disease. These tests also reveal the effect it has had on the heart and the future course of action.
Treatment for Coronary Artery Disease
There are a combination of medications and lifestyle changes that can help in treating Coronary Artery Disease. Some of the possible measures include:
- Lifestyle changes: For people who smoke it is important to avoid processed food and adopt a low fat or low salt diet. Sugar consumption should also be limited for people who are suffering from diabetes. Exercising on a regular basis is important but a consultation with an expert beforehand about the exercise program you are about to adopt is equally important.
- Medication: In case lifestyle changes don’t do the job, medications might be needed. The drug that one is advised from a specialist depends on the scenario. Aspirin or statin is among the common medicines that are advised to patients suffering from Coronary Artery Disease.
- Surgery & other procedures: Common procedures adopted to treat artery disease includes Balloon angioplasty, stent placement, or Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery.
All the above treatments are intended to increase the blood supply to the heart but would not cure coronary heart disease. However, these would certainly aide in lowering the chances of having a heart disease. Some common research that doctors have already working on includes Angiogenesis. It is a process that is involved in things like stem cells as well as other genetic materials that goes through the veins. These may also go directly into the damaged heart tissues. The process is intended to help the new blood vessels to grow and go all across the clogged ones.
Another process that medical expert have been working on is termed as EECP that stands for enhanced external counter pulsation. For patients suffering from chronic angina who fail to respond to nitrate medications can benefit from this. The procedure is for outpatients who use cuffs over the legs for inflating and deflating the blood supply to the coronary arteries.