Coronary Heart (artery) Disease - FAQs

What are Coronary arteries?

Coronary arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood to your heart muscle. Arteries are like narrow tubes. A fatty substance called plaque can build up in your arteries, blocking or slowing the flow of blood and oxygen through them. This can happen in any artery, but when it happens in the coronary arteries, heart muscle doesn't get enough blood and oxygen to work properly. Coronary heart disease (CHD) can lead to angina (pain or pressure in the chest) and heart attack.

What causes Coronary Heart Disease?

  • It can be hereditary (run in your family).
  • It might also develop as you get older and plaque builds up in your arteries over the years.
  • If you are overweight or if you have high blood pressure or diabetes or high cholesterol level
  • Unhealthy life style such as smoking, eating a high-fat diet and not exercising enough.

What increases the risk of CHD?

Diabetes, high blood pressure, high LDL "bad" cholesterol, low HDL "good" cholesterol, menopause, not getting enough physical activity or exercise, obesity and smoking

What are the symptoms of CHD?

  • Chest pain or discomfort (angina) is the most common symptom. How bad the pain is varies from person to person.There are two main types of chest pain:
    • Atypical chest pain -- often sharp and comes and goes. You can feel it in your left chest, abdomen, back, or arm. It is unrelated to exercise and not relieved by rest or a medicine called sorbitrate. Atypical chest pain is more common in women.
    • Typical chest pain -- feels heavy or like someone is squeezing you. You feel it under your breast bone (sternum). The pain usually occurs with activity or emotion, and goes away with rest or a medicine called sorbitrate. Adults with typical chest pain have a higher risk of CHD than those with atypical chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart attack -- in some cases, the first sign of CHD is a heart attack

What can i do to lower my risk of CHD?

  • Don't smoke.
  • Control your blood pressure /diabetes / cholesterol.
  • Exercise.
  • Ask your doctor about taking a low dose of aspirin each day.
  • Ask your doctor about taking vitamin supplements.
  • Eat a healthy diet.

How heart attack occurs?

Coronary artery disease generally refers to the buildup of cholesterol in the inner layers of the arteries. This will slowly narrow the flow of blood through the vessel, and the muscle it supplies will not get enough blood. The plaque weakens the wall. A crack may develop in the plaque and a blood clot may form which results in heart attack.

What is the treatment for chd?

Treatment depends on your symptoms and how severe the disease is.

If you have coronary artery disease that does not cause symptoms, you can be treated with either medicine or angioplasty with stenting. Angioplasty with stenting does not help you live longer, but it can reduce angina or other symptoms of CHD.Angioplasty with stenting, however, can be a life-saving procedure if you are having a heart attack.

(A) Medications used to treat CHD include:

  • ACE inhibitors to lower blood pressure
  • Blood thinners (antiplatelet drugs) to reduce your risk of blood clots
  • Beta-blockers to lower heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen use by the heart
  • Calcium channel blockers to relax arteries, lowering blood pressure and reducing strain on the heart
  • Diuretics to lower blood pressure
  • Nitrates (such as nitroglycerin) to stop chest pain and improve blood supply to the heart
  • Statins to lower cholesterol

(B) Procedures to treat and diagnose CHD are called percutaneous coronary interventions, or PCIs. Angioplasty and stenting are types of PCIs. Other types include:

  • Coronary atherectomy
  • Coronary radiation implant or coronary brachytherapy which delivers radiation into the coronary arteries. This treatment is only for patients who have had a stent-related problems.

(C) Surgeries to treat CHD include

  • Coronary artery bypass surgery
  • Minimally invasive heart surgery

What preventive steps can be taken?

  • Avoid or reduce stress as best as you can.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Eat well-balanced meals that are low in fat and cholesterol and include several daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
  • Get regular exercise. If your weight is considered normal, get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. If you are overweight or obese, experts say you should get 60 to 90 minutes of exercise every day.
  • Keep your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol under control.
  • Moderate amounts of alcohol may reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems. However, drinking larger amounts does more harm than good.
  • If you have one or more risk factors for coronary heart disease, talk to your doctor about possibly taking an aspirin a day to help prevent a heart attack or stroke. Low-dose aspirin therapy may be prescribed if the benefit is likely to outweigh the risk of gastrointestinal side effects.