What is Coronary Artery Disease?
In recent years India has been witnessing a rise in the number of cardiac diseases making it one of the leading causes of death in the country, underlining the need of educating the people about the diseases, its causes, symptoms and its treatment.
Coronary artery disease (CAD) also referred to as coronary heart disease or simply heart disease is the progressive disease of the coronary arteries that supply blood, oxygen, and other nutrients to the heart muscle. It is one of the most common heart diseases and also one of the leading causes of death among both men and women.
In coronary heart disease, plaque (cholesterol-containing deposits) gradually builds up in the coronary arteries, thereby restricting the coronary arteries and causing the heart muscle to receive less blood and oxygen. This plaque build-up can further rupture the arteries leading to a heart attack or sudden cardiac death.
The chief cause behind coronary artery disease is plaque build-up in the arteries. This plaque build-up is a gradual process that begins as early as childhood. Slowly the plaque build-up grows causing the artery wall to get inflamed, which in turn raises the risk of blood clots and heart disease.
The plaque also makes the artery walls sticky where inflammatory cells, lipoproteins and calcium stick to the artery walls making the arteries even narrower and in some cases when the plaque ruptures, a blood clot may block the blood supply to the heart muscle leading to a heart attack.
The factors that further aggravate the vascular injury or damage the inner wall of the artery include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol level, diabetes or insulin resistance and a sedentary lifestyle.
Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
When your heart is deprived of adequate arterial blood and low oxygen levels, it can give out various symptoms, the most common of which is chest discomfort or Angina. Sometimes the varied symptoms of CAD are often mistaken for heartburn and indigestion. Here is a list of various coronary artery disease symptoms that can help you recognize heart disease and seek timely treatment.
- Chest pain
- Heaviness and tightness in the chest
- Burning sensation in the chest
- Pain in the arms and shoulders
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating and Dizziness
Do not ever ignore any of these symptoms, especially if they are severe and last longer than 5 minutes.
Treatment of Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease treatment involves a combination of lifestyle changes and medication and in certain cases, medical procedures aimed to restore and improve the blood flow to the heart. The lifestyle changes deemed necessary to improve heart health include:
- Quit Smoking
- Drink alcohol moderately, if at all
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Lose weight
- Lower your stress
Some of the common medications prescribed by the doctors for CAD include cholesterol modifying medications, aspirin, statin, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, ranolazine and nitroglycerin to name a few.
The medical procedures employed to restore the normal blood flow to the heart include balloon angioplasty, coronary artery bypass graft surgery and enhanced external counter-pulsation.
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Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease
The various risk factors for coronary artery disease is as follows;
Older people are a greater risk of developing coronary heart disease since age increases the risk of plaque build-up, damaged and restricted arteries.
Men are at a greater risk of developing coronary artery disease than women. However, the risk of CAD increases dramatically in women once they hit their menopause.
People having a family history of coronary heart disease are at a higher risk of coronary heart disease than the general population.
Smoking and Alcohol Consumption
Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption significantly weakens the heart muscle and heightens the risk of coronary heart disease. Even second-hand smoke can cause major damage to heart health and increase the risk of this heart disease.
High Blood Pressure
Unchecked high blood pressure can also stiffen and narrows the arteries causing coronary artery disease.
High Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol levels in the blood can increase the plaque build-up and atherosclerosis leading to coronary heart disease.
Diabetes is another major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease. Diabetes and CAD also share similar risk factors, i.e., obesity and high blood pressure.
Unhealthy Diet and Inactive Lifestyle
Eating food rich in saturated fats, trans fat, salt and sugary coupled with a sedentary lifestyle dramatically heighten the chances of developing CAD.
If you or your loved one fall into any of the above risk categories, it would be a smart decision to get your health insured since the treatment and recovery can be a lengthy and expensive affair. Care Health Insurance (Formerly Religare Health Insurance) offers Heart Care Mediclaim that provides coverage for over 16 major heart ailments and is affordable as well.
Any disease affecting a loved one causes major emotional distress to the family. Although you may not be able to control this emotional distress, you can certainly contain the financial toll it can take on your family. Invest in heart health insurance today and protect yourself and your loved ones from the undue stress brought over by this grim disease.