Coronary heart disease occurs when a combination of fatty material, calcium, and scar tissue (plaque) builds up in the arteries and is narrowed or blocked as a result. This plaque often narrows the arteries that prevent blood from reaching the heart. This slowing of blood flow causes angina or chest pain. If the plaque blocks blood flow completely, it may lead to heart attack or a fatal cardiac arrest. If the build-up is mild, a person may experience tightness in the chest at times of increased activity or stress. The article will enlighten the readers about some facts about coronary heart disease, heart disease prevention and coronary heart disease treatment.
Coronary heart disease, which is also known as atherosclerotic heart disease, or coronary artery disease, or ischaemic heart disease, occurs because of narrowing or blockage of coronary arteries by a plaque formed by fat or cholesterol on the artery walls.
There are many risk factors linked to coronary heart disease. Some of these can be controlled, while others cannot. Most common causes are:
- High cholesterol
- Tobacco abuse
- High blood pressure
- High-fat diet
- Emotional stress
- Physical inactivity
- Lack of regular exercise
A prominent symptom of coronary heart disease is an abrupt and unpredictable cardiac arrest. Other common symptoms are:
- Chest pain and shortness of breath on exertion
- Back pain, jaw pain or arm pain, especially on left side, either during physical exertion or at rest
- Weakness on exertion or at rest
- Irregular heartbeat
- Dizziness or fainting tendencies
Coronary heart disease prevention
Steps to coronary heart disease prevention include:
Change in lifestyle
Quit smoking: Smoking kills, it chokes the heart. Second-hand smoking should also be prevented. It is the best thing we can do for heart disease prevention.
Regular exercise: A good exercise always boosts the strength of your heart. It can also improve cholesterol and blood pressure. Undertaking regular physical exercise for half an hour is a must for heart disease prevention.
A healthy diet: Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help us control our cholesterol and blood pressure.
Healthy weight: Maintaining a healthy body weight is also necessary for heart disease prevention.
Proper treatment: Effective treatment of diabetes and high-blood pressure is necessary.
Healthy blood cholesterol level: It should be maintained for heart disease prevention.
Self-awareness: Self-awareness is important for coronary heart disease prevention. We should be aware of facts about coronary heart disease and how to prevent them.
Aspirin is used for coronary heart disease treatment. Daily intake of aspirin may reduce the chances of having a stroke or a heart attack because aspirin lowers the risk of excessive blood clotting. It can lead to heart attacks in people with heart disease and other medical problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Though consuming aspirin has some risks, a doctor should always be consulted before starting an aspirin treatment.
High levels of stress can affect our hearts. Stress should be kept at bay. Methods of stress management, which includes exercise, deep breathing, meditation or yoga, helps in coronary heart disease prevention.
If a person is suspected to have coronary heart disease, a thorough physical assessment should be undertaken which will include an assessment of risk factors and symptoms. Tests to make an accurate diagnosis may include:
Blood Tests: To check the levels of electrolytes, clotting factors, blood cells, specific hormones and specific enzymes and proteins in the blood that can indicate a problem with the heart.
Electrocardiogram (ECG): A resting ECG may show changes that indicate that the heart muscle is not receiving enough oxygen.
Exercise ECG/ Exercise Tolerance Test (ETT): It shows the heart’s response to exercise and stress.
Echocardiography: It helps the doctors to measure the dimensions of the heart, view the structures of the heart, and assess any damage to the heart muscle by displaying the movements of the heart as it beats.
Stress Echocardiography: It involves the administering of certain medications into the blood stream while the echocardiogram is being performed. This test is mostly used for people unable to exercise for medical reasons.
Angiogram: It produces an outline of any narrowing or blockages in the arteries of the heart. The efficiency of the heart can also be assessed during this test.
CT Angiography: It produces images that can indicate narrowing due to fat deposits and calcium deposits in arteries.
Nuclear Isotope Imaging: It helps the doctors to assess the functioning of the heart and detect narrowed or blocked blood vessels.
Coronary heart disease treatment
Depending on the results of the tests, various treatment options will be adopted. Treatment may include medication, coronary angioplasty or bypass surgery.
Medications commonly used to treat coronary heart disease include:
Beta Blockers: They slow the pulse rate and reduce the blood pressure thus reducing the heart’s workload.
Nitrates: They widen the arteries making it easier for pumping of blood.
Calcium Channel Blockers: They slow down the entry of calcium into the heart and blood vessels and relax the arteries causing them to dilate. This in turn lowers the blood pressure and reduces the heart’s workload.
ACE Inhibitors: They prevent the constriction of peripheral blood vessels.
Coronary Angioplasty and Stenting
Another treatment for coronary heart disease, Coronary Angioplasty is a non-surgical method used to widen narrowed coronary arteries. The procedure involves inserting a balloon-tipped catheter through an incision in the groin or wrist into a narrowed coronary artery. The balloon positioned at the site of the narrowing in the coronary artery is then inflated, thus compressing the plaque and improving the flow of blood to the heart by increasing the diameter of the artery.
Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery (CABG)
It is a surgical procedure where a blood vessel is removed from one area of the body and placed around the narrowed areas to bypass those blockages and restore the flow of blood beyond the area of narrowed artery. These vessels are called grafts. Arteries from forearms and chest wall and veins from the legs can be used as graft vessels. The surgery takes approximately three to four hours and is required to stay in a hospital for five to seven days. It can take up to eight weeks for the patient to heal.
Coronary heart disease is a serious heart problem that needs immediate attention after diagnosis. Treatment for coronary heart disease usually involves lifestyle changes, drugs and certain medical procedures and in some cases surgery. Since prevention is always better than cure, therefore, we should always keep in mind the requirements of a healthy-heart and reduce the risk of further problems.
All the treatments – medicines, injections and vaccines are for general information of the reader. Please consult a doctor and get a formal prescription before taking any medicines, supplements and injections.
Need a Online Doctor? Check out Online Doctor Services.