Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease. It also accounts for 42% of heart-related deaths in the United States.
Most people can prevent CAD with lifestyle changes. But if you already have the disease, recognizing the symptoms gives you the chance to seek treatment, a step that you should never put off.
By the time a symptom appears, CAD has reached an advanced stage. Even at a late stage, our experienced team at Woodlands Heart and Vascular offers treatments that help prevent a heart attack and restore optimal health.
CAD occurs when the arteries carrying oxygen-rich blood to your heart narrow and harden. This problem, called atherosclerosis, occurs as fats, cholesterol, and calcium accumulate in the artery wall.
Even after atherosclerosis develops, you can prevent or slow down the progressive buildup of fats. We work closely with patients, assessing their risks for coronary artery disease and creating a preventive care plan.
Depending on your unique risk factors and current health, prevention may include:
However, without preventive care, the plaque keeps getting larger. Eventually, it blocks blood flow and your heart is deprived of oxygen and nutrients. That’s when you start to experience symptoms.
Atherosclerosis builds up so gradually that most people don’t have noticeable symptoms until they have a substantial blockage.
Then you may experience:
Chest pain that occurs when your heart doesn’t get enough oxygen is called angina. The pain or pressure typically appears during physical activity and then improves when you rest. However, any persistent chest pain should be considered a warning sign. Instead of pain, you may get the feeling of indigestion, even if you haven’t recently had a meal.
You may feel like you can’t catch your breath or inhale enough air. Shortness of breath most often occurs or gets worse when you exercise or during times of emotional stress.
You may occasionally feel lightheaded or dizzy. Like the first two symptoms, you’re more likely to feel dizzy during physical activity, but it can appear at any time.
Coronary artery disease limits blood flow to the heart, which in turn diminishes heart function and affects the supply of blood to your body. As a result, your muscles and organs don’t get enough oxygen. This leads to fatigue or an overall lack of energy.
Unfortunately, a heart attack is often the first sign that you have coronary artery disease. In many cases, the heart attack occurs due to blood clots that develop. For example, the plaque can rupture and cause a blood clot. Then the clot completely blocks the artery and you have a heart attack.
During a heart attack, you may experience:
Women are more likely than men to have shortness of breath, fatigue, and pain in areas other than their chest.
People with coronary artery disease are more likely to have another heart condition such as heart failure or arrhythmia (irregular heart beat). If you have other heart problems, they may cause symptoms before signs of CAD appear.
Heart failure and arrhythmia may cause shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue.
Additional symptoms of heart failure include:
Heart arrhythmias also cause symptoms such as a fluttering sensation in your chest, a rapid heartbeat, and fainting.
We offer comprehensive care for coronary artery disease, including prevention, diagnostic testing, and minimally invasive interventional treatments. Don’t wait to seek help for a suspected heart condition. Call Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute in The Woodlands, Texas, as soon as you notice symptoms.