Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) describes the narrowing of small blood vessels responsible for supplying the heart with blood and oxygen. For this reason, CHD has also been called Coronary Artery Disease.
What Is Coronary Heart Disease?
Coronary heart disease is typically caused by atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty materials and other substances form plaque (or buildup) on arterial walls. As plaque accumulates, artery walls begin to narrow.
As arteries leading to the heart narrow, blood flow to the heart slows and may even stop altogether. This can cause chest pain (stable angina), heart attack, and shortness of breath. Symptoms usually present during activity.
Coronary Artery Disease is currently the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.
Coronary Artery Disease Risk Factors
Men in their 40s may be at greater risk of developing CAD than women. As women get older, however, their risk increases. After menopause, women’s risk is almost equal to that of men.
Genetic factors can also increase risk, as heredity is involved in CAD development. If someone in your family has a history of heart disease–especially before the age of 50–you are at greater risk of developing CAD. Your risk increases as you age.
Diabetes is a strong risk factor for CAD. High blood pressure increases your risk of both CAD and heart failure. High cholesterol levels can also contribute to risk; LDL cholesterol (also called “bad cholesterol”) should be low, while HDL (also called “good cholesterol”) should be high. These numbers will reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Metabolic syndrome is the term used to describe the collection of symptoms including high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, an excess of body fat around the waist, and increased insulin levels. Individuals with metabolic syndrome are at greater risk for developing CAD.
Smokers are also at increased risk for developing heart disease than non-smokers. Kidney disease has also been linked to CAD development. Having had atherosclerosis in another area of the body–including stroke or abdominal aneurysm–also increases your risk of having Coronary Artery Disease.
Additional risk factors for Coronary Heart Disease include overuse of alcohol, inadequate exercise, and chronic stress. Increased levels of inflammatory chemicals, such as C-reactive protein and fibrinogen have also been identified as possible risks for heart disease development. High homocysteine levels are also linked to an increased risk of having a heart attack.
Symptoms of CAD
Coronary Heart Disease symptoms may be stark, but symptoms can also be silent or go undetected. Chest pain or discomfort is the most commonly reported symptom.
If you want to learn more, Metrolina Medical Associates offers Vascular and Organ Ultrasound to help diagnose Coronary Artery Disease in Rock Hill, Charlotte, and the surrounding areas.