Coronary Artery Disease
You can have coronary artery disease and not know it. Sometimes the disease is found during an electrocardiogram or stress test. Often a heart attack is the first sign of heart disease.
When you do know that you have heart disease, you may wonder how it spreads over time and what you can do to slow its progress. It's important to take care of yourself. Making healthy lifestyle changes can reduce your chances of heart attack and Reference stroke Opens New Window. Take your medicines as your doctor prescribes.
If your heart disease gets worse, your arteries will narrow, and less blood will flow to your heart. You may start to have chest pain or discomfort (angina) when you exercise or feel stressed. This is called Reference stable angina Opens New Window. Most people are able to control stable angina by resting or Reference taking nitroglycerin.
In some cases, sudden and serious problems can happen. New blockages that form in the arteries of the heart can become unstable. They can suddenly tear and cause blood clots to form. These clots block blood flow to your heart, causing a heart attack or Reference unstable angina Opens New Window.
If your heart disease is severe, or if your chest pain and other symptoms can't be controlled with medicines, you may need to think about other treatment, such as:
- Reference Angioplasty Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window with or without Reference stents Opens New Window.
- Reference Coronary artery bypass surgery Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window.
These treatments, along with making changes like eating right and not smoking, can help you live a longer, healthier life. If your disease becomes much worse, it can lead to serious medical problems. Many important end-of-life decisions can be made while you are active and able to communicate your wishes.
Complications of heart disease
Over time, you may have other health problems caused by coronary artery disease. Low blood flow can make it harder for your heart to pump. This can lead to Reference heart failure Opens New Window or Reference atrial fibrillation Opens New Window. Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke.
Narrow coronary arteries don't just cause problems for your heart. They can also affect Reference blood vessels throughout your body Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window.
Most often, problems occur in arteries that bring blood to your heart, brain, and arms and legs (Reference peripheral arterial disease Opens New Window).
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference May 9, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Reference Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
- Health Tools
- What Increases Your Risk
- When to Call a Doctor
- Exams and Tests
- Treatment Overview
- What Happens
- Living With Heart Disease
- Angioplasty and Other Treatment
- End-of-Life Decisions
- Other Places To Get Help
- Related Information