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Atherosclerosis

AKA: Coronary Artery Disease

 

What is coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease (also known as atherosclerosis) is the leading cause of heart disease. Simply, it is a buildup of cholesterol and calcium plaque that leads to progressive narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart with blood and oxygen.  As plaque builds up, the possibility of it breaking away and blocking a blood vessel increases. Broken plaque can contribute to blood clots that block the flow of blood to the heart resulting in a heart attack. Plaque can also block or disrupt the flow of blood to the brain resulting in ischemic stroke.  Narrowed blood vessels caused by plaque build-up can also lead to uncontrolled high blood pressure, which can cause a blood vessel in the brain to rupture resulting in a hemorrhagic stroke.

What are the symptoms of coronary artery disease?

It is possible to have coronary artery disease, without noticing any symptoms – especially in the early stages. As with most medical conditions, knowing about a condition such as coronary artery disease allows you to take corrective measures that can minimize the potential consequences and obtain the best long term results from your treatment.

How is coronary artery disease diagnosed?

At the Center, several non-invasive tests are often used to diagnose and confirm the presence of coronary artery disease including: blood tests to measure cholesterol levels, ABI , EKG, echocardiograms and stress tests. These tests can also be used to monitor the effectiveness of your treatment plan. If you are positively diagnosed as having coronary artery disease, your cardiologist will recommend a treatment plan based on the severity of your condition and symptoms. Most plans will include a heart healthy diet and recommended exercise. There are also many drugs that can help to lower and control cholesterol levels.

If my condition is in an advanced stage, what can be done?

If your condition is in an advanced stage, action may need to be taken to quickly improve the flow of blood in arteries that are substantially or even completely blocked by cholesterol buildup. In such cases, you may require a catheterization procedure known as angioplasty. A catheter is inserted into an artery in the leg and threaded to the point of the blockage. Then a balloon is used to widen the artery to improve blood flow. Sometimes a stent is placed via catheter to permanently support a narrowed blood vessel.

Atherosclerosis Diagram