When a person’s arteries are healthy, the walls are smooth, and there’s plenty of room for the blood to flow freely. Diseased arteries are so clogged with fatty deposits that there’s very little room left for the blood. Because the blood vessel is so narrow, a clot can block the flow of blood entirely, causing a heart attack or a stroke. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
When the blood vessels leading to the heart become clogged, the result is a condition known as coronary artery disease, sometimes called CAD. Clogged arteries make it hard for the blood to flow to the heart, cutting off a large portion of the oxygen the heart needs to function properly.
CAD is a very serious condition, since clogged arteries can lead to heart attacks, strokes or even death. Coronary artery disease is hard to detect in the early stages, so most people don’t realize they have it until the condition has advanced to a very serious stage. Many treatments are available to slow down the disease, including:
- medications to reduce blood pressure and relieve the strain on the heart;
- procedures, such as angioplasty, to compress the deposits that clog the arteries;
- and bypass surgery that reroutes the blood around clogged vessels.
The best way to avoid coronary artery disease is to adopt a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a low-fat diet. People who have a higher risk of coronary artery disease can ask their healthcare providers for medical tests that measure cholesterol levels, blood pressure and other heart functions.
One of the most common warning signs of coronary artery disease is chest pain that increases during stress or exercise. This chest pain is known as angina. If you experience frequent chest pain or tire easily during routine tasks, see your healthcare provider immediately to get an accurate diagnosis and to begin appropriate treatment as soon as possible.