What is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)?

CAD stands for coronary artery disease. Coronary arteries are the arteries that surround the heart and supply the heart with oxygen rich blood. Coronary artery disease happens when these arteries become obstructed and hardened, therefore reducing oxygen rich blood flow to the heart. This obstruction is due to the buildup of cholesterol and fat, called plaque, on the inner walls. This process is known as atherosclerosis. As the plaque grows, less blood can flow through the arteries, therefore depriving the heart of the blood and oxygen it needs to function. This narrowing can lead to chest pain (angina), or if a complete occlusion occurs, may lead to a heart attack causing permanent damage to the heart. Other signs and symptoms of CAD include shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, weakness and palpitations.

Over time, CAD can also weaken the heart muscle and contribute to heart failure and arrhythmias. Heart failure means the heart can't pump blood well to the rest of the body. Arrhythmias are changes in the normal beating rhythm of the heart.

The causes of CAD are the same causes that contribute to hyperlipidemia. Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, diet high in fat and cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes and hypothyroidism may all contribute to the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Coronary artery disease may initially may be suspected or diagnosed through a routine EKG. An EKG will show a previous heart attack, or one in progress, and will also show if you have an arrhythmia. An echocardiogram may then be done, which is a noninvasive technique of taking pictures of heart. It can show the structure and pumping activity, and any damage done to your heart. If your symptoms occur most often during exercise, your doctor may perform a treadmill stress test, in order to visualize your hearts activity during exercise. A coronary catheterization is the gold standard of diagnosis, and is an invasive procedure of injecting dye into your arteries and observing blood flow. It will outline blockages or any areas of plaque present in your arteries.

CAD is the most common type of heart disease. It's the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Lifestyle changes, medicines, and/or medical procedures can effectively prevent or treat Coronary artery disease in most people

At Heart and Health we pride ourselves to have the commitment to screen, prevent, and treat our patients. Any person with significant risk factors and heart palpitations, increase heart rate, dizziness, should be screened and evaluated in order to prevent these unnecessary complications.

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