Coronary Artery Disease
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Coronary artery disease (CAD) refers to a buildup of plaque in the lining of the arteries of the heart, which could cause blood clots to form. These clots restrict blood flow to the heart, ultimately leading to a heart attack. This buildup can also interfere with the oxygen-rich blood and nutrients being delivered to the heart muscle , producing pain or pressure over the chest that travels to the arm or jaw. CAD is one of the most common forms of heart disease and the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.
Risk Factors of Coronary Artery Disease
Populations most at risk for CAD are men older than 45 and post-menopausal women. Common risk factors include the following:
- Age — CAD is degenerative and simply aging causes damage to or narrowing of the arteries
- High LDL (bad) cholesterol
- Low HDL (good) cholesterol
- High blood pressure — uncontrolled, it can cause a hardening or thickening of the arteries
- Family history
- Smoking — nicotine constricts blood vessels and damages the inner lining of the arteries
Living a healthy lifestyle that incorporates good nutrition, weight management, as well as regular physical activity can help reduce your risk for CAD.
Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease
CAD can develop over decades with no symptoms at first, but as plaque continues to build up in the arteries, the following symptoms may appear, in particular when the heart is pumping hard, such as during physical activity:
- Chest pain or pressure (angina), which can travel to the arm or jaw
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
Treating Coronary Heart Disease
The team at Houston Methodist includes world-class doctors , rehabilitation specialists, social workers, dietitians and other health care professionals who work closely with patients during treatment. Our highly skilled surgeons are expertly trained, specifically in these procedures associated with treating CAD.
- Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), also known as coronary angioplasty, is a procedure using a guide wire and special catheter (a long hollow tube) that opens blocked coronary arteries and restores blood flow to the heart tissue without open-heart surgery. The catheter is inserted into the blocked coronary artery and then a surgical device is used to remove plaque and open the artery.
- Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is a surgical technique connecting or grafting a healthy blood vessel, usually harvested from the patient’s own leg, to bypass blocked areas in one or more coronary arteries.
- Off-pump coronary artery bypass is used in place of traditional coronary artery bypass surgery in high-risk patients whose health permits it. The surgeon uses a method in which the heart is allowed to keep beating during the surgery, bypassing the blocked artery in a highly controlled operative environment. Benefits for this procedure include a quicker recovery, reduced hospital stay and better preservation of heart function with less chance for heart rhythm, kidney or liver complications.