Coronary artery disease is a disease which is described as narrowing of the inner diameter of coronary arteries. The narrowing occurs due to accumulation of plaque, caused by long term damage done to the arteries through chemical (cholesterol, diabetes, cigarette smoking) as well as mechanical factors (artery hypertension). This leads to inflammatory processes and plaque accumulation. Over time, as the process intensifies, the plaque amount will increase which reduces the overall blood flow through the coronary artery. Blood vessel which is reduced in diameter due to atherosclerotic plaque is not able to supply the heart muscles with an adequate amount of oxygen, especially during situations when your body requires a short burst of oxygen (stress, physical exertion). Patients can feel this problem as a numb pain sensation around the heart which is referred to as angina pectoris. Heart muscle which isn’t supplied with enough oxygen slowly dies out, reducing its function. This can lead to total heart failure, causing the ever so notorious heart attack, which is still the number one cause of death around the world.
Risk factors and symptoms
Any of the below mentioned risk factors increase the possibility of coronary artery disease to affect you (ICD CODE 9 = 414.01):
- Older than 55 years of age (men) or 65 years of age (women)
- Increased level of cholesterol (>5mmol/L) and triglycerides (>3mmol/L)
- Increased artery blood pressure (>140/90 mmHg)
- Being overweight
- Physically inactive
Coronary artery disease is a disease which progresses slowly, often without any symptoms. First sign of its presence are painful episodes of chest pain which can occur during physical stress, but while being still as well. It can appear to be of stretching nature, or pressure accompanied with lack of air. It can also spread into arms, particularly the left one, into shoulders, back and jaw, while also accompanied by noxiousness, vomiting and excessive sweating.
In case you have an increased risk chance of coronary artery disease or any of the above mentioned symptoms, you need to contact your doctor. The first step in establishing a diagnosis is ergometry, which is basically a stress test. During the test, EKG will be recorded to note any coronary artery disease specific changes which can hint towards the disease. Heart ultrasound can also indicate anomalies which are specific to this disease. In case some of these tests come out positive, the next step is coronography. This is a non-invasive method, one of the most useful and important procedures in medical diagnostics since it allows for the doctor to see where exactly are the blood vessels narrower in diameter. Treatment is fairly complex and time consuming, combining medical therapy along with some specific lifestyle changes which are designed to accompany the medications so that the entire treatment becomes as efficient as possible. Risk factors such as artery hypertension, diabetes and increased blood cholesterol are primarily treated, along with medications that are reducing the chance of a heart attack to occur, as well as a whole bunch of painkillers.