Coronary Artery Disease

What is coronary artery disease?

    Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the gradual narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, responsible for supplying oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. This narrowing occurs due to plaque accumulation, including cholesterol, within these arteries, restricting blood flow to the heart.

    Imagine two lanes of traffic converging into one due to road construction. Although the traffic continues, it moves slower due to the merge. Similarly, the artery's narrowing may not manifest noticeable symptoms with CAD until plaque triggers a blood clot. This clot acts like a concrete barrier in the roadway, halting traffic. Similarly, when a blood clot forms, it obstructs blood flow to the heart, leading to a heart attack.

    CAD can remain undetected for many years, often without symptoms, until a heart attack occurs. This silent progression is why CAD is usually called a "silent killer." Other terms used interchangeably with CAD include coronary heart disease (CHD) and ischemic heart disease. It's also what people typically mean when referring to "heart disease" in general.


    During the initial phases, symptoms of coronary artery disease (CAD) may not be apparent. However, as plaque accumulates, restricting blood flow to the heart muscle, you may experience shortness of breath or fatigue, particularly during physical activity.

    Angina, characterized by chest pain, is the predominant symptom of CAD. Some individuals may misinterpret angina as heartburn or indigestion.

    Angina presents as discomfort in the chest, often radiating to the shoulders, arms, back, or jaw. Other symptoms can include:

    1. sensations of tightness

    2. discomfort

    3. pressure

    4. heaviness

    5. squeezing

    6. burning

    7. aching

    8. numbness

    9. fullness.

Symptoms of women

    Women and individuals assigned female at birth frequently exhibit distinct symptoms of coronary artery disease (CAD) compared to men or those assigned male at birth. Although chest pain remains a prevalent indicator, women are more prone to experiencing additional symptoms such as shortness of breath, profound fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and pain in the back or jaw.

When to see a doctor

    If you suspect you're experiencing a heart attack, dial 911 or your local emergency number without delay. If emergency medical services aren't accessible, arrange for immediate transportation to the nearest hospital, prioritizing having someone drive you. Driving yourself should be considered as a last resort.

    Factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity, or a significant family history of heart disease increase your susceptibility to coronary artery disease (CAD). If you fall into the high-risk category for CAD, consult your healthcare provider. They can assess your condition and recommend appropriate tests to evaluate the presence of narrowed arteries and coronary artery disease.

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