Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of heart disease in the United States. More than 650,000 Americans have a heart attack due to CHD each year. And unfortunately, about one in every five deaths from heart disease is due to CHD. And as shocking as these numbers may be, they don’t reflect the true impact of CHD. Not all heart attacks and other forms of CHD end in death. Many people live with this condition, which can significantly reduce their quality of life. So to help you understand what CHD is and how it can affect your health, this article includes a comprehensive guide to this condition.
What Is Coronary Heart Disease?
Coronary heart disease is an affliction that affects the vessels which carry blood to the heart muscle. These vessels, called coronary arteries, are responsible for supplying the heart with oxygen-rich blood. A blockage in one or more of these arteries impedes the flow of this essential nutrient and can lead to chest pain (angina) or even a heart attack.
Plaque can cause narrowing and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). This condition is usually caused by a buildup of fatty deposits called plaque on the inner walls of these arteries. It is also possible for plaque to rupture and form a clot, which can completely block the artery.
Risk Factors for CHD
Several risk factors can increase your chances of developing CHD. Some are preventable; however, genetics can also play a role. The most common risk factors include:
- Smoking – When you regularly smoke or use other tobacco products, the toxins in them can damage your arteries and increase plaque buildup.
- High Blood Pressure – High blood pressure damages your artery walls and increases the risk of narrowing and blockage from plaque.
- High Cholesterol – Too much cholesterol in your bloodstream can cause a buildup of fatty deposits on the inner walls of your arteries.
- Hypertension (high blood pressure) – Hypertension can increase strain on your heart, leading to a higher risk of CHD.
- Diabetes – Diabetes affects how your body uses sugar and can lead to high triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which contribute to plaque buildup.
- Obesity – Excess weight increases the burden on your heart and can lead to fatty deposits forming in your arteries.
- A Sedentary Lifestyle – Regular exercise helps keep your body healthy and reduces the risk of CHD.
- Age – As you age, your risk of developing CHD increases due to the natural aging process.
- Family History – If someone in your family has been diagnosed with CHD, you may be at a higher risk.
Symptoms Of CHD
Chest Pain Or Angina
Chest pain or angina is one of the most common symptoms of coronary heart disease. It typically occurs on the left side of the chest and may spread to the arms, shoulders, neck, jaws, or back. This sensation of chest pain can vary and be experienced as discomfort, pressure, heaviness, tightness, or a burning sensation.
Angina episodes are often triggered by physical activities such as running or climbing stairs that require extra effort from the heart. For this reason, it’s essential to listen to your body if you experience chest pain and discuss it with your doctor.
Shortness Of Breath
Shortness of breath is another common symptom of coronary heart disease. It can be experienced anywhere from rarely to constantly, depending on the severity of damage to the heart and lungs. In some cases, shortness of breath may signify that the disease has progressed significantly, and patients should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
However, it is also important to note that sometimes it can result from overexertion or mild congestion. Still, experiencing any unusual signs or symptoms should prompt a person to reach out to their doctor for clarification and further evaluation.
Extreme fatigue is a severe symptom of Coronary Heart Disease or CHD. It is caused by the heart not receiving enough oxygenated blood, resulting in extreme exhaustion that cannot always be relieved with rest or sleep. People suffering from this condition often feel like their energy has been drained, making it difficult to perform simple tasks such as walking.
If left untreated, CHD progresses and can cause more severe symptoms. Suppose you experience extreme fatigue along with other symptoms. In that case, it’s important to talk to your doctor so they can work with you to diagnose the issue and get you appropriate treatment.
This is the most serious of all CHD symptoms and is caused by a blockage in the arteries that restricts or completely stops blood flow to the heart muscle. When this occurs, it can cause pain, pressure, and tightness in the chest that may spread to the arms, neck, jaw, or back. Other heart attack symptoms include difficulty breathing, nausea/vomiting, sweating, dizziness, and an irregular heartbeat.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately. Heart attacks can be life-threatening if not treated immediately, so it is essential to call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room.
Treatment Options For CHD
If you do get diagnosed with CHD, there are a variety of treatment options available. Each of these should be taken in consultation with your doctor, who can provide tailored advice to meet your needs.
One of the best things you can do to manage your CHD is to make healthy lifestyle changes. Adopting a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help improve cholesterol levels while limiting saturated fats and refined carbs. Additionally, regular physical activity helps reduce inflammation caused by plaque buildup and lowers blood pressure.
And finally, quitting smoking can also help reduce the risk of further damage to your heart. Even with an existing condition, doing so can help reduce the severity of symptoms while also increasing your chances of living a longer, healthier life.
Your doctor may also recommend taking medication to help manage symptoms. This can be in the form of beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, nitrates, or even cholesterol-lowering medications. The type, dosage, and frequency of these medications will depend on the individual’s situation, so it is critical to consult your doctor to ensure you are taking the right prescription for your condition.
Typically, these medications help reduce the amount of strain placed on the heart, which helps improve overall blood flow—as with all medications, taking them as prescribed and discussing any potential side effects with your doctor is essential.
Surgery can also be necessary for coronary heart disease, providing several patient benefits. Cardiac surgery is an invaluable tool in treating coronary artery disease and certain congenital heart defects, wherein plaque-filled arteries are opened using techniques such as angioplasty or coronary artery bypass grafting. This type of surgery also offers the potential to reduce mortality risks that accompany various cardiovascular conditions.
Although these treatments involve risk, technological advancements and surgical techniques continue to improve its safety and effectiveness. Ultimately, surgery can be used to preserve the life and health of patients affected by CHD.
Understanding Coronary Heart Disease Is Vital
Coronary heart disease is a severe condition, but it can be effectively managed using the right combination of treatments. By understanding the risk factors and potential signs and symptoms, you can work with your doctor to effectively manage this condition. From lifestyle modifications to medications and even surgery, numerous ways exist to reduce the risk of further damage and improve your overall outlook. Don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. They will be your best resource to ensure you have the right treatments.