3. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a condition of the heart that occurs when the arteries get narrower, leading to a reduction in blood flow to the heart. This is usually caused by a condition known as atherosclerosis. Even from a young age, fatty material (known as plaque) begins to build up on the lining of the artery walls. Our bodies are quite adept at clearing up the inflammation caused by plaque, and it can take many years before any negative effects can be seen from plaque in the arteries. However, it builds up over time and eventually narrows the arteries so much that it causes discomfort and pain.
The cause and risk factors of atherosclerosis leading to coronary artery disease can vary, and are considered either controllable or uncontrollable. Controllable risks are things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, lack of physical activity and lifestyle choices like smoking and excessive drinking. Uncontrollable risks are things like gender, hereditary and age.
Coronary artery disease is known as a silent killer because often, people won’t know they have a problem until they’re experiencing chest pain (angina), or suffering a heart attack or stroke. Symptoms of angina include pressure, heaviness, burning, aching, numbness, squeezing or pain. These symptoms usually occur in the chest but can also be felt in the left shoulder, the arms, neck, back and jaw.
Treatment for coronary artery disease includes lifestyle changes like a healthy diet, adequate exercise, quitting smoking, avoiding excessive drinking and taking medication. Common procedures like coronary artery bypass grafting can be performed to improve blood flow to the heart by grafting a healthy blood vessel taken from the leg, chest or arm to the coronary artery, which creates a new path for blood-flow. Several tests are usually needed in order to properly diagnose CAD, but if you believe you may be at risk of developing it, or already have developed it, it’s important to visit a healthcare professional to discuss treatment options.