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Signs of Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease in the United States, affecting more than 18 million adults in the country.1 CAD develops slowly, typically over several years, meaning that there is an opportunity to reduce your risk.2
To learn more about coronary artery disease, we’ve listed some of the causes and risk factors. We also share some of the signs of blocked arteries, as well as preventative measures to reduce your risk of CAD.
What Causes Coronary Artery Disease?
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is caused by the build-up of plaque in the arteries. When there is excess plaque in the coronary arteries, it affects the body’s ability to supply blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the heart.3
Plaque is made up of substances that build up in the arteries such as cholesterol. A build-up of plaque in the arteries causes them to narrow, which can partially or completely block blood flow.
What puts you at risk?
There are numerous risk factors for coronary artery disease. Some of these factors can be controlled with a healthy lifestyle, while others are uncontrollable.1
- Older age
- Family history
- Lack of physical activity
- Diet high in saturated fats
There are also health conditions that can put certain individuals more at risk for CAD.4
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sleep disorders
- Chronic kidney disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
If you currently have any of these health conditions, talk with your doctor about your risk for coronary artery disease.
Signs of Coronary Artery Disease
Some of the signs of coronary artery disease include5:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Preventing Coronary Artery Disease
The prevention of coronary artery disease is often possible through controlling the risk factors. Although some are hereditary, there are steps you can take to live a lifestyle that promotes a healthy heart.2
- Don’t smoke
- Eat more heart-healthy foods
- Be physically active, and remain active throughout your life
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Find healthy ways to cope with stress
Diagnosis and Treatment of Coronary Artery Disease
When it comes to diagnosing or monitoring coronary artery disease, there are numerous ways for doctors to do so.6
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) – This test measures the electrical activity of the heart, and shows how fast or slow the heart is beating. Signal patterns from this test can help a provider learn if you’ve having or have had a heart attack.
- Echocardiogram – This test uses sound waves to show pictures of the heart. An echocardiogram can show blood flow through the heart and its valves.
- Exercise stress test – If you experience signs of blocked arteries mainly during physical activity, your doctor will perform an ECG or echocardiogram while you exercise. For example, your doctor may instruct you to walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike while they perform this test.
- Heart (cardiac) CT scan – A CT scan of the heart can show if you have any calcium deposits or blocked arteries. Sometimes doctors will order this scan with dye. The dye is injected via IV, and helps to create detailed pictures of the arteries.
Treatment for CAD
If you’ve been diagnosed with coronary artery disease (CAD), your treatment will depend on the symptoms you’re experiencing, the severity of the disease, and if you have any other health conditions.7
- Lifestyle changes. To reduce your risk of further heath complications, your doctor will recommend some healthy lifestyle changes. Some of these will include maintaining a healthy weight, eating heart-healthy foods, engaging in physical activity, managing stress, and avoiding smoking.
- Medicine. There are medications that can reduce chest pain or manage other health conditions that may contribute to CAD. Some of these include medications to control blood sugar, ACE inhibitors or beta blockers to lower blood pressure, Metformin that controls plaque build-up, and Nitrates that can relieve chest pain.
- Surgery. In extreme cases, there are procedures that can be performed for those with CAD. Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) opens coronary arteries that are blocked. Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) utilizes arteries from the chest and leg to bypass blocked arteries.
Learn More About CAD Today
If you or a loved one are at risk for coronary artery disease, we encourage you to learn more about the symptoms of clogged arteries, as well as what you can do to help prevent it.
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Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long-term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- “Coronary Artery Disease.” Cleveland Clinic, clevelandclinic.org. Accessed February 7th, 2023. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16898-coronary-artery-disease.
- “Coronary Artery Disease: Prevention, Treatment and Research.” The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System, hopkinsmedicine.org. Accessed February 8th, 2023. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronary-artery-disease-prevention-treatment-and-research.
- “Coronary Artery Disease (CAD).” U.S Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed February 7th, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/coronary_ad.htm.
- “Coronary Artery Disease – Coronary Heart Disease.” American Heart Association, heart.org. Accessed February 8th, 2023. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/what-is-cardiovascular-disease/coronary-artery-disease.
- Biggers, Alana. “Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) Symptoms.” Healthline Media, healthline.com. August 23rd, 2021. Accessed February 7th, 2023. https://www.healthline.com/health/coronary-artery-disease/symptoms.
- “Coronary artery disease.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayo Clinic. Accessed February 8th, 2023. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronary-artery-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350619.
- “Coronary Heart Disease Treatment.” National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed February 8th, 2023. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/coronary-heart-disease/treatment.