Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a heart disease that afflicts millions of Americans each year and is responsible for close to 16% of all deaths globally. For most people, mild-to-severe symptoms of coronary artery disease occur later in life, but CAD starts in childhood while symptoms may begin to surface during early adolescence. It is important to identify these signs and CAD risk factors early, since symptoms typically worsen with age. Mastering controllable CAD risk factors helps to prevent the deleterious effects of coronary artery disease.
Coronary Artery Disease Causes
Coronary artery disease leads to coronary heart disease and is the result of plaque buildup in the coronary blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. With CAD, plaque lines the walls of coronary arteries until blood flow to the heart’s muscle is restricted—a condition also known as ischemia. The restriction of blood flow to the heart can manifest acute or less severe conditions at anytime. Plaque buildup can cause a sudden rupture in the blood vessels, forming a blood clot or blockage that may lead to heart failure or heart attack.
A cluster of cardiovascular ailments intricately linked to coronary artery disease includes sudden cardiac death, myocardial infarction, stable angina, and unstable angina. Asymptomatic stable coronary artery disease (SCAD) precedes acute coronary disease (when CAD symptoms usually emerge). However, SCAD sufferers may experience ephemeral chest pain, or angina, that can precipitate in reaction to strong emotion, stress, or strenuous exercise.
Other CAD risk factors may include: low hemoglobin, endometriosis (in women under age 40), emotional distress (depression, antagonistic tendencies), type A personality traits (urgency, impatience, etc.), and bacterial infection (chlamydophila pneumoniae). The more CAD risk factors you have, the higher your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, in general.
Coronary Artery Disease Symptoms
Myocardial infarction, or heart attack, is a typical sign that an individual has developed coronary artery disease. Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and angina (pain in the chest area) are also common CAD symptoms.
It is important to remember that coronary artery disease may present no symptoms until these very serious episodes occur. The recurrence of minor CAD signs that can lead to these more severe episodes should be medically addressed, especially if they occur simultaneously. Understated signs for CAD may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Heartburn sensations
- Brief, but consistent pains in the upper body
- Night sweats
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Extreme fatigue
Prevent Coronary Artery Disease
Certainly, coronary artery disease risk factors, such as genetics, age, and gender, cannot be controlled. If you experience these uncontrollable risk factors, it is more imperative that you take charge of risk factors that you can control. Committing to a preventive health regimen over a long period of time produces the best results. Managing a reasonable body weight, adhering to a sound diet, avoiding smoking, and getting proper exercise are primary ways to prevent coronary artery disease.
- Lower cholesterol levels with proper exercise and a diet high in high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) and low in low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) as well as triglycerides. Consuming wheatgrass extract, at least 3.5 grams per day, over a long period of time has been shown to lower low-density lipoproteins. Wheatgrass also contains amino acids—alanine, arginine, absenisic, aspartic acid, glycine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, serine, and tryptophan—that aid the body in repairing damaged tissue.
- Consider eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids found in wild-caught salmon, leafy green vegetables, and walnuts; as well as vitamin K2 found in chicken breast, egg yolk, and cheese. Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K2 are revered as agents for lowering incidences of cardiovascular disease. Vegetarians often consume a diet of antioxidant-rich and fiber-filled foods, like fruits and plants, while abstaining from eating artery-clogging red meats. Therefore, it is no surprise that they tend to experience a lower risk of developing heart disease than those who consume a carnivorous diet regularly.
- Engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity to control your weight and keep the heart muscle strong. Make physical exercise a lifelong endeavor. However, abruptly exercising after long periods of inactivity can do tremendous harm if your body is not conditioned for physical activity. Try walking or jogging before progressing to more strenuous aerobic exercise. Be sure to consult your physician before beginning any exercise plan.
Treat Coronary Artery Disease
Treatment measures for coronary artery disease include preventive measures for the disease. In addition to taking on regular healthy dietary and exercise practices, synthetic drugs have been shown to provide relief for CAD sufferers. Many CAD pharmaceuticals address angina symptoms and help modify arterial hardening from plaque buildup. Medical procedures aim to support obstructed arteries and improve blood circulation. Newer treatment options include stem-cell therapy and antibiotic remedies. Here is a list of some CAD treatment options you can expect:
- Daily, indefinite low-dose aspirin (or clopidogrel, if patients experience aspirin intolerance)
- Beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers
- Ivabradine improves oxygen balance in the heart.
- Amlodipine relieves high blood pressure.
- Nitrates (usually for angina symptoms)
- Ranolazine treats more chronic angina symptoms.
- Angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors (especially in hypertensive patients)
- Statins help to reduce cholesterol.
- Coronary stents and angioplasty
- Coronary artery bypass surgery