Coronary artery disease is characterized by the accumulation of plaques in the small cardiac arteries that carry blood to the heart muscle. When this happens, the muscle cells of the heart do not receive enough oxygen and end up not functioning properly, which leads to the emergence of symptoms such as constant chest pain or easy tiredness.
In addition, when one of these plaques ruptures, a set of inflammatory processes occur that end up resulting in an obstruction of the vessel, causing the blood to stop passing completely to the heart and causing the appearance of serious complications such as angina pectoris, infarction, arrhythmia or even sudden death.
Thus, it is important to prevent coronary artery disease from arising or, if it already exists, to worsen. For this, it is important to make a balanced diet and maintain regular practice of physical exercise. It may also be necessary to use some medicines when indicated by the cardiologist.
Symptoms of coronary artery disease are related to angina, which is a feeling of pain in the form of tightness in the chest, which lasts 10 to 20 minutes and that can radiate to the chin, neck and arms. But the person may also exhibit other signs and symptoms, such as:
- Tiredness when performing small physical exertion,
- Feeling of shortness of breath;
- Cold sweat;
- Nausea and/or vomiting.
Often these signs are difficult to identify because they tend to appear gradually, being more difficult to be noticed. For this reason, it is common for coronary heart disease to be identified to a very developed degree or when it causes some serious complication, such as infarction.
People with risk factors such as high cholesterol, diabetes or sedentary lifestyle are at higher risk of having the disease and therefore should have frequent tests at the cardiologist to identify if they are at risk of having a serious complication by starting treatment as soon as necessary.
What tests to diagnose
The diagnosis of coronary heart disease should be made by the cardiologist and is usually initiated with an assessment of the risk of heart disease, which includes an analysis of the clinical history, as well as assessment of blood pressure and cholesterol level in the blood test.
In addition, and if he deems it necessary, the doctor may also request other more specific tests, such as electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, coronary angiography, stress test, computed tomography and other blood tests. These tests help not only to arrive at the diagnosis of coronary heart disease, but also to rule out other possible heart problems.
Who has the greatest risk
The risk of developing coronary artery disease is higher in people who:
- They are smokers;
- They have high blood pressure;
- They have high cholesterol;
- Do not do regular physical exercise;
- They have diabetes.
Thus, the best way to avoid developing this type of diseases is to have a healthy lifestyle, which involves doing physical exercise at least 3 times a week, avoiding smoking, drinking or using drugs and making a varied and balanced diet, low in fats and rich in fiber and vegetables.
How treatment is done
Treatment for coronary heart disease includes regularly exercising, releasing stress and eating well, avoiding very fatty or sugary foods, and avoiding other risk factors for the disease, such as smoking or drinking alcohol, for example.
For this, usually the treatment is guided by a cardiologist, who also evaluates the need to start the use of medication to control cholesterol, hypertension or diabetes. These medications should be used according to guidance and throughout life.
In the most severe cases, it may be necessary to perform some type of surgery to perform cardiac catheterization and, if necessary, angioplasty to place a network inside the vessel or even a revascularization surgery with placement of breast and saphenous vein bridges.
Prevention of coronary heart disease
Prevention of coronary heart disease may be made through good lifestyle habits such as quitting smoking, eating properly, doing physical activity and lowering cholesterol levels. Adequate cholesterol levels are:
- Hdl: above 60 mg/dl;
- Ldl: below 130 mg/dl; being below 70 for patients who have already infarcted or who have diabetes, high blood pressure or smoke, for example.
Those who have a high risk of developing a coronary heart disease, in addition to adopting a healthy lifestyle should also follow up with a cardiologist at least 1 to 2 times a year.