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Coronary artery disease

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Posted by on Wednesday, September 8, 2010, 0:02
This news item was posted in C, Heart category and has 2 Comments so far.

Definition:

Coronary artery disease develops when your coronary arteries — the major blood vessels that supply your heart with blood, oxygen and nutrients — become damaged or diseased. Cholesterol-containing deposits (plaques) on your arteries are usually to blame for coronary artery disease.

Coronary artery disease
Coronary artery disease

When plaques build up, they narrow your coronary arteries, causing your heart to receive less blood. Eventually, diminished blood flow may cause chest pain (angina), shortness of breath or other coronary artery disease symptoms. A complete blockage can cause a heart attack.

Because coronary artery disease often develops over decades, it can go virtually unnoticed until it produces a heart attack. But there’s plenty you can do to prevent and treat coronary artery disease. Start by committing to a healthy lifestyle.

Symptoms:

If your coronary arteries become narrowed, they can’t supply enough oxygenated blood to your heart — especially when it’s beating hard, such as during physical activity. At first, the restricted blood flow may not cause any coronary artery disease symptoms. As the plaques continue to accumulate in your coronary arteries, however, you may develop coronary artery disease symptoms, including:

* Chest pain (angina). You may feel pressure or tightness in your chest, as if someone were standing on your chest. The pain, referred to as angina, is usually triggered by physical or emotional stress. It typically goes away within minutes after stopping the stressful activity. In some people, especially women, this pain may be fleeting or sharp and noticed in the abdomen, back or arm.
* Shortness of breath. If your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs, you may develop shortness of breath or extreme fatigue with exertion.
* Heart attack. If a coronary artery becomes completely blocked, you may have a heart attack. The classic signs and symptoms of a heart attack include crushing pressure in your chest and pain in your shoulder or arm, sometimes with shortness of breath and sweating. Women are somewhat more likely than men are to experience less typical signs and symptoms of a heart attack, including nausea and back or jaw pain. Sometimes a heart attack occurs without any apparent signs or symptoms.

When to see a doctor
If you suspect you’re having a heart attack, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number. If you don’t have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only as a last resort.

If you have risk factors for coronary artery disease — such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or obesity — talk to your doctor. He or she may want to test you for the condition, especially if you have signs or symptoms of narrowed arteries. Even if you don’t have evidence of coronary artery disease, your doctor may recommend aggressive treatment of your risk factors. Early diagnosis and treatment may stop progression of coronary artery disease and help prevent a heart attack.

Causes:

Illustration showing development of atherosclerosis     Development of atherosclerosis

Coronary artery disease is thought to begin with damage or injury to the inner layer of a coronary artery, sometimes as early as childhood. The damage may be caused by various factors, including:

* Smoking
* High blood pressure
* High cholesterol
* Diabetes
* Radiation therapy to the chest, as used for certain types of cancer

Once the inner wall of an artery is damaged, fatty deposits (plaques) made of cholesterol and other cellular waste products tend to accumulate at the site of injury in a process called atherosclerosis. If the surface of these plaques breaks or ruptures, blood cells called platelets will clump at the site to try to repair the artery. This clump can block the artery, leading to a heart attack.

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2 Responses to “Coronary artery disease”

  1. [...] Coronary artery disease (CAD) is atherosclerosis (plaque in artery walls) of the inner lining of the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. A similar term, arteriosclerosis which means hardening or stiffening of the arteries is sometimes interchanged with atherosclerosis by some authors. CAD is a common form of heart disease and is a major cause of illness and death. CAD begins when hard cholesterol substances (plaques) are deposited within a coronary artery. The coronary arteries arise from the aorta, which is adjacent to the heart. The plaques narrow the internal diameter of the arteries (Figure1) which may cause a tiny clot to form which can obstruct the flow of blood to the heart muscle (Figure 2). Symptoms of CAD include: [...]

  2. [...] thick substance called cholesterol plaque. Over time, cholesterol plaque causes thickening of the artery walls and narrowing of the arteries, a process called [...]

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