Coronary artery disease is the number one reason for deaths in the United States today. The disease occurs when plaque (fatty deposits including cholesterol) accumulate within the arteries of the heart. The arteries are responsible for conveying both blood and fresh oxygen to the heart, but the buildup of plaque can prevent the blood flow from getting to the heart fully. Less blood flow to the heart can mean heart pain and pressure in the chest. Coronary artery disease can result in heart attacks and death.
Coronary artery disease is a result of hardening of the arteries, medically known as atherosclerosis. The plaque that builds up within the arteries eventually causes the heart to get insufficient blood, a condition called ischemia. Ischemia will usually weaken the heart or cause serious heart damage.
Heart attacks occur when the plaque that is built up breaks apart. When the plaque is torn or ruptured, the body starts trying to repair the damage. This causes a blood clot, which seals the area off. Since that blood clot can totally block all blood flow to the heart, a heart attack may be the result.
The most recognizable symptom is chest pain. Shortness of breath may also be common, especially during any type of physical exertion. Occasionally, people have additional symptoms like nausea, pain in the back, or pain in the jaw.
There are many ways that people can work to prevent coronary artery disease. Eating healthy, losing weight, lowering high cholesterol, and eliminating cigarette smoking are all helpful in reducing risk. People who already have diabetes or a family history of heart disease should be especially vigilant about staying healthy. The doctor can guide patients in creating a healthy lifestyle that will help them stay out of the high-risk groups for coronary artery disease.
At Internal Medicine & Family Practice, we accept most major medical insurance plans. Here is a short list of just some of the most popular plans we accept. Please contact our office if you do not see your insurance provider listed.