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Coronary Heart Disease

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Coronary heart disease (CAD) is a serious condition that can lead to sudden heart attack. Fatty deposits on the walls of the coronary arteries around the heart lead to this condition. This build-up causes the arteries to become damaged. This fat and cholesterol buildup is called atherosclerosis. It leads to narrowing or even complete blockage of the arteries. This is not an overnight process. Years and years of build-up cause this problem. People who are affected by atherosclerosis are not even aware of the time bomb ticking in their heart. It is only when one suffers from a heart attack; it leads to realization that they are suffering from coronary heart disease.

CAD deprives the heart muscles of the required amount of blood and oxygen supply. The deprivation leads to arrhythmias as well as heart failure. Although one cannot control the risk factors related to coronary heart disease, they can follow preventive measures to avoid the disease.


The fatty deposits called plaque inside the coronary arteries, leads to coronary artery disease. Plaque consists of cholesterol, calcium and other waste from the blood. The coronary arteries are important as they help supply the heart with blood and oxygen. The narrowing or blockage of these arteries due to plaque buildup can lead to heart attack.

Coronary artery disease is the most common cause of heart attack and is the main cause of death in both men and women. The plaque build-up causes one to suffer from chest pain, shortness of breath, etc.


As mentioned above, the plaque build-up damages the arteries. This leads to hardening of the arteries called as atherosclerosis. This is a major problem as the arteries affected can decrease the blood and oxygen supply to the heart. Any artery within the body can be affected. But when the arteries of the heart are affected, it is called as coronary heart disease.

Normal arteries are smooth and elastic. They are lined with a layer of endothelium cells. These cells form a barrier between the coronary artery wall and blood stream. Beginning from teenage years, fat gets deposited on these walls. As one gets older, the fat build-up increases, leading to damage to the artery wall. Not just fats, but also inflammatory cells, cellular waste, calcium and proteins start sticking to artery walls. This combination leads to formation of plaque.

The plaque is made up of a hard cap on the outside and soft fatty deposit on the inside. When the plaque cracks or breaks, it leads to exposure of the fatty deposit inside. In response to this, platelets rush to this site, leading to formation of blood clots. This causes irritation of the endothelial cells, leading to contraction of the artery wall. If the blood clot blocks the blood supply, it can lead to conditions related to acute coronary syndromes, i.e. sudden heart attack.

Risk Factors Related to Coronary Heart Disease

Certain risk factors related to coronary heart disease include:

Symptoms of Coronary Heart Disease

Symptoms of coronary heart disease are not noticeable in many cases. A sudden heart attack brings forth the presence of coronary heart disease. Some of the symptoms of the coronary heart disease include:

  • Chest pain
  • Feeling heaviness in the chest
  • One may feel a squeeze under the breast bone, neck, arms, stomach as well as back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue


The doctor will conduct a physical examination and may ask you to undergo certain tests. These tests include:


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The treatment includes management of the symptoms and reducing the risk of heart attack. The medications given include those that aspirin that helps in reducing the risk of heart diseases. Statins, niacin, etc. that help in decreasing the amount of cholesterol. Other medications include:

The patient will be asked to make changes in their lifestyle. These include abstinence from smoking, reduction of stress, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly.

If the medications and lifestyle changes do not help, then surgical intervention is required. Surgery such as angioplasty, coronary artery bypass surgery, etc.


Coronary artery diseases can be prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It maintains important the health of the heart and arteries. Some of the prevention measures include:

  • Avoid smoking
  • Control high blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Eat a low-fat, low-salt diet
  • Avoid fast food
  • Keep a positive attitude towards life and control stress

This was all about coronary heart disease. One should undergo regular annual check ups to keep heart problems in check. Todays lifestyle is fast paced. Make sure you place your health before your work and give time to your heart to relax. Speak to a health care provider for more details, if you come under the risk factors.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 02, 2015

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