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Coronary Artery Disease

Millions of people in our country suffer from coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is a term used to describe the process of narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart with blood. This narrowing, called atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), is a buildup of plaque deposits consisting of lipids, cholesterol, calcium, and fibrous tissue in the arteries.

The narrowed arteries decrease the supply of blood to the heart muscle. This process of narrowing may progress over the course of many years without causing noticeable symptoms. In time, however, the narrowing of arteries may reach a point that blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked enough to cause the symptoms associated with heart disease, or a heart attack.

Symptoms

Common symptoms may include angina (chest pressure or pain), shortness of breath, fatigue, and perhaps the sensation of just not feeling well. Occasionally, even when the degree of blockage is significant, an individual may not experience symptoms.

Angina

Angina is the term used to describe the symptoms you might feel when your heart muscle is not getting enough oxygen. Symptoms of angina may include chest pain or pressure, neck or arm pain, back pain, jaw pain, shortness of breath, indigestion (heartburn), or general discomfort. These symptoms usually last only a few minutes and occur when your body needs more oxygen, placing greater demands on the heart. This is most often caused by physical exertion, emotional stress, or sudden temperature changes in the environment, but may also occur when you are resting.

Angina is a warning that you may have coronary artery disease. Unfortunately, some people have little or no angina and are therefore not aware that there is restricted oxygen supply to the heart. This is referred to as "silent heart disease."

Restriction of blood and nutrients to the heart muscle may be severe enough to cause irreversible damage, which is called a heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI). Our goal is to prevent or minimize this permanent damage. 

It's important to remember that the earlier symptoms are recognized and evaluated, the better the chance for preserving the function of the heart.