- What is coronary heart disease?
- Is there a cure for coronary heart disease?
- What are the signs and symptoms of coronary heart disease?
- How is coronary heart disease diagnosed?
- What are the causes of coronary heart disease?
- What are the stages of coronary heart disease?
- Can coronary heart disease be prevented?
- What foods can help to prevent coronary heart disease?
- How is coronary heart disease treated?
- What happens if coronary heart disease goes untreated?
- What type of specialist treats coronary heart disease?
Coronary heart disease (CHD), also known as ischaemic heart disease or coronary artery disease (CAD), is when the coronary arteries narrow over time due to a build-up of fatty material within the artery walls. The coronary arteries are responsible for supplying the heart with oxygenated blood.
If treated, the symptoms of coronary heart disease can be lessened and the function of the heart can be improved.
The most common symptoms of coronary heart disease include:
- Angina (chest pain)
- Heart attacks
- Heart failure
- Heart palpitations
If your doctor suspects you might be at risk for coronary heart disease, then they might recommend you have a risk assessment done.
A risk assessment can involve:
The process of the coronary arteries becoming blocked by fatty deposits is called atherosclerosis, and the fatty deposits are known as atheroma.
There are certain risk factors that can cause atherosclerosis, including:
CHD can begin without people realising they have it. They may have no symptoms at all, but many people do notice some warning signs. Even when symptoms are subtle, medical attention should be sought.
When heart disease develops, you may become short of breath, feel a chest pain that can spread from your breastbone to your jaw, throat, or one arm. Stress or exertion can be the cause of this, and the symptoms may go away when you rest or calm down. A heart attack can happen if these symptoms become more and more frequent.
Certain lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease, including:
- Exercising regularly
- Maintaining a healthier weight
- Quitting smoking
- Reducing alcohol consumption
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet that's low in cholesterol
- Controlling blood pressure
- Managing diabetes well
Foods containing unsaturated fats may help to prevent coronary heart disease. Unsaturated fats contain HDL cholesterol, which can assist in the transportation of bad cholesterol from the arteries, before it transforms into plaque.
Plants and fatty fish, such as the ones listed below, contain unsaturated fats:
- Sunflower and olive oil
- Fatty fish, such as trout, herring and salmon
Other foods that are recommended for prevention of coronary heart disease include:
- Whole fruits and vegetables
- Low-fat dairy
- Whole grains
- Herbal tea, such as ginger, black, rooibos or green
There is no cure for coronary heart disease, however, there are treatments available to both manage the symptoms and reduce the likelihood of a heart attack.
The main treatments include lifestyle changes, medications, surgery, and angioplasty.
Medications that treat CHD can either widen the arteries or reduce blood pressure. The following are common medications given to CHD patients:
- Statins – lowers cholesterol
- Antiplatelets – blood thinners
- Beta-blockers – treats hypertension and prevents angina
- ACE inhibitors & calcium channel blockers – reduce blood pressure
Angioplasty is an emergency treatment option for those having a heart attack. A small balloon is inserted into the narrowed artery, pushing out the fatty deposits. A stent is then inserted to hold the artery open.
Other surgical treatments include:
- Coronary artery bypass graft
- Heart transplant
Coronary artery disease can lead to complications, some of which are life threatening, if it goes untreated.
A cardiologist would treat coronary heart disease.