• Coronary Artery Disease

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    Are we winning the battle with heart disease? Dr. David L. Brown provides insights on the progress made so far and the challenges that remain.

    Coronary artery disease, or CAD, is a build-up of fat and cholesterol in the arteries that supply blood to your heart. These deposits, which are called plaques, grow slowly over decades and can sometimes become hardened with fibrous tissue and calcium. As the plaques grow, in a disease process called atherosclerosis, portions of the artery become clogged and narrowed. If an artery is severely obstructed, it reduces blood flow to the heart and can cause chest pain or even a heart attack.

    But it's not just large plaques that spell trouble. Even moderate-sized plaques can be dangerous, if they become inflamed. Plaques that are inflamed are often soft, filled with liquid fat and covered with a fragile cap. These types of plaques can rupture and suddenly reduce blood flow to the heart, causing painful and frightening symptoms. When an inflamed plaque ruptures, the top of the plaque partially obstructs blood flow, while the liquid fat in the plaque causes blood to clot at the site of injury. A blood clot that completely blocks the artery can result in a heart attack, but smaller clots can seriously impair blood flow and cause chest pain (angina), as the heart is deprived of the oxygen-rich blood it needs.

    Many people with coronary artery disease also have plaque build-up in other arteries of the body. For example –

    • Disease in the arteries that supply blood to the brain can cause a stroke.

    If your doctor has told you that you have coronary artery disease, you know it's serious, but you should also realize that you're not alone. Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease. In fact, over 16 million Americans have coronary artery disease.

    It's true that heart disease is still the most common cause of death among both men and women, claiming the lives of more than a half million Americans each year. But it's also true that, today, more and more people with coronary artery disease are living long and active lives, thanks to remarkable advances in diagnosis and treatment.

    There are many resources available to you for learning more about coronary artery disease, and an entire team of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare specialists who can help you to make healthy changes in your life.

  • More about Coronary Artery Disease

    Causes of Coronary Artery Disease

    The intrusion of fat into the artery walls can begin very early in life, and often builds up as we age. However, certain characteristics, or risk factors, increase the likelihood that fatty streaks in the artery wall will develop into atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.

    Diagnosing Coronary Artery Disease

    To determine whether you have coronary artery disease, and how severe it is, you doctor will talk with you about your health, lifestyle, and family history. This information, plus the results of a physical examination and blood tests, will help determine whether you have risk factors for heart disease. Your doctor may also want you to have certain diagnostic tests.

    Lifestyle Changes for Patients With Coronary Artery Disease

    It can be a little frightening to find out you have coronary artery disease. After angioplasty or bypass surgery, some people are so relieved to be free of chest pain, they think they're cured. But the truth is, those procedures are just the beginning of a whole new, healthier way of life.

    Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Coronary Artery Disease

    The following questions can help you talk to your physician about your individual risk of having coronary artery disease (CAD). Print out or write down these questions and take them with you to your appointment. Taking notes can help you remember your physician’s response when you get home.

    Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease

    As plaque builds up, your arteries become narrowed. At first you may not even be aware of this silent process, but eventually the clogged arteries will no longer be able to supply enough blood to your heart, especially during physical activity or emotional stress, and you may experience symptoms of coronary artery disease (CAD). This section can help you identify symptoms of CAD.

    Treatment options for coronary artery disease

    Over the last 20 years, there has been a revolution in the treatment of coronary artery disease-and scientists make new discoveries every day. By following your doctor's treatment plan, you may be able to prevent your heart disease from getting any worse and possibly even reverse some of the plaque build-up.

    What is Heart Attack?

    Heart attacks are caused by heart disease, which is the number one cause of death among both men and women in the United States. Every year in the United States roughly 785,000 people will have their first heart attack. And approximately 470,000 who have had a heart attack before will have another one.