St. Joseph Health System
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Coronary Artery Disease

What is coronary artery disease?
When the arteries that carry blood to the heart become blocked or weakened, they cannot deliver sufficient blood to the heart, resulting in coronary artery disease (CAD). The coronary arteries become blocked or narrowed by a gradual build-up of cholesterol.

What are the warning signs and symptoms of coronary artery disease?
Angina, also referred to as chest pain, is a warning sign of coronary artery disease. This symptom is often a sign of an impending heart attack. If you or someone you know is experiencing Angina, call 9-1-1 immediately to get to the nearest emergency room.

It is important to understand that men and women experience Angina differently. Men typically experience the following common warning signs of a heart attack:

  • Severe to moderate chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Radiating pain in the arms and chest

Some women do not experience chest pain at all when experiencing a heart attack. A woman's pain may be in the back, arm, neck, shoulder, and/or throat. Also, women typically have more "non-pain" symptoms than men. These include vomiting, nausea, fatigue and shortness of breath.

It is also surprisingly common for people to experience no symptoms at all. This is especially true of diabetics and those over the age of 75. We recommend that these individuals visit their family physician and/or cardiologist on a regular basis to continually monitor their heart health.

How is coronary artery disease detected?
During a physical exam, your doctor will evaluate many of the risk factors that contribute to coronary artery disease. These may include diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, previous family history, history of smoking, etc.

We invite you to take our free online cardiovascular risk assessment to evaluate your cardiovascular health. It only takes about ten minutes, and your results are generated immediately. Please print and bring these results to your next physician visit.

In addition to evaluating your risk factors, there are also noninvasive imaging techniques available to detect coronary artery disease at its earliest stages. CAD is a progressive disease that can lead to heart failure or even death. There are many treatment options that can slow the progression or in some cases reverse the effects of the disease.

What are the treatment options for coronary artery disease?
The simplest treatment for coronary artery disease is lifestyle change. Evaluate your modifiable cardiovascular risks--high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, exercise, diet, weight, etc.--and work to reduce the damaging effects of each risk factor.

As coronary artery disease progresses, medications, interventional catheterizations, or cardiovascular surgery may be required. Your doctor will work with you to devise a plan that is best suited for you.

There are thousands of medications available to treat Coronary Artery Disease. The most common medications prescribed are blood pressure lowering medications, cholesterol lowering drugs, and anticoagulant (blood thinning) medications.

For more severe cases of coronary artery disease, surgery may be necessary. Depending upon the degree of CAD, there are two methods to treat plaque build-up, catheter interventions and surgery. Surgical procedures include balloon angioplasty, coronary stinting, brachytherapy, drug-eluting stinting and intracoronary ultrasound.
For a referral to a St. Joseph's cardiologist call 979.821.7589.

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