Coronary Artery Disease

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with coronary artery disease (CAD), you’ll be glad to know that Northwest Regional Heart & Vascular has extensive experience in treating this condition.

Here is some information to help you understand what causes CAD, its symptoms and why treatment is so important:

What is coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease develops when a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the arteries in the heart, narrowing the arteries and reducing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. This plaque buildup is called atherosclerosis.

What causes coronary artery disease?

CAD starts when the inner layers of the coronary arteries are damaged by such things as:

  • Smoking
  • High levels of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood
  • High blood pressure
  • High levels of sugar in the blood due to insulin resistance or diabetes
  • Inflammation in the blood vessels

Plaque begins to build up where the arteries are damaged, a process that may start in childhood.

What are the symptoms of coronary artery disease?

  • Chest pain (angina) – This occurs when an area of your heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood. It may feel like pressure or squeezing in your chest, and you may feel it in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back. The pain tends to get worse with activity and go away with rest.
  • Shortness of breath – This occurs if CAD causes heart failure, when your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. Fluid builds up in your lungs, making it hard to breathe.

Why treatment of coronary artery disease is necessary

Left untreated, coronary artery disease can lead to heart attack, heart failure or arrhythmias (heart rhythm disorders).

Medical therapy, angioplasty or coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery may be needed if one or more of your coronary arteries are blocked.

Learn more about the treatment options for coronary artery disease that are available at Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular Center.