Coronary Disease: What is it? Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Coronary artery disease affects millions of people around the world.

This severe condition is the result of plaque buildup in the arteries.

What is coronary artery disease?

They are also called coronary artery disease or heart disease. Arteries have a plaque on their inner walls, making them stiffer and narrower. This restricts blood flow to the heart muscle, which can be deprived of oxygen.

The plaque could rupture, leading to a heart attack or sudden cardiac death.

How does coronary artery disease develop?

From a young age, plaque can begin to enter the walls of the blood vessels.

As we get older, plaque builds up. That inflames the walls and increases the risk of blood clots and heart attacks.

The plaque makes the inner walls of the blood vessels sticky. Then the inflammatory cells, lipoproteins, and calcium travel in the bloodstream and mix with the plaque.


As more inflammatory cells join, along with cholesterol, plaque increases, pushing the walls of the arteries outward and growing inward. That makes the containers narrower.

Eventually, a narrow coronary artery can develop new blood vessels around the blockage to carry blood to the heart muscle.

However, stress and pressure may cause the new arteries not to be able to carry enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle.

In some cases, when plaque ruptures, a blood clot can block the blood supply to the heart muscle. This causes a heart attack.

An ischemic stroke can occur if a blood vessel in the brain is blocked, usually by a blood clot.

If a blood vessel within the brain bursts, most likely due to uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure), a hemorrhagic stroke can occur.

Studies have found that taking a low-dose aspirin every day can help prevent heart attacks and strokes in people 50 and older.

What is ischemia?

Cardiac ischemia occurs when plaque and fat shrink the inside of an artery so that it cannot supply enough oxygen-rich blood to your heart.

This can cause heart attacks without chest pain and other symptoms.

Ischemia occurs more during:

  • Exercise or another effort.
  • Eating.
  • Emotion or stress
  • Exposure to cold.

Coronary artery disease can reach a point where ischemia occurs even when you are at rest. This is a medical emergency and can lead to a heart attack.

Ischemia can occur without warning in anyone with heart disease, although it is more common in people with diabetes.

What are the symptoms of coronary artery disease?

The most common symptom is angina or chest pain.

Angina can be described as:

  • Heaviness.
  • Pressure.
  • Pain.
  • Ardor.
  • Numbness.
  • Fullness.
  • Squeezing.
  • Sensation of pain.

It can be confused with indigestion or heartburn.

Angina is usually felt in the chest, but it can also be supposed in the:

  • Shoulder.
  • Brazos.
  • Neck.
  • Mandible.

Symptoms are often more subtle in women. Nausea, sweating, fatigue, or shortness of breath can join the typical pressure-like chest pain.

Other symptoms that can occur with coronary artery disease include:

  • Short of breath.
  • Palpitations (irregular heartbeat, skipped heartbeat, or a feeling of a flip-flop in the chest).
  • A faster heartbeat.
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Sickness.
  • Sweating

How is this disease diagnosed?

A doctor can determine the presence of coronary artery disease after:

  • Know the person’s symptoms, medical history, and risk factors.
  • A physical exam.
  • Diagnostic tests include an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), echocardiogram, stress tests, electron beam scanning (ultrafast), cardiac catheterization, etc. These tests help the doctor know the extent of coronary heart disease, its effect on the heart, and the best treatment for the person.

How is the disease treated?

Changes in lifestyle

Give up smoking. Avoid processed foods and adopt a diet low in trans fat, low in salt, and low in sugar.

Keeping your blood sugar under control if you have diabetes. Exercising regularly (a doctor-recommended exercise program).


If lifestyle changes are not enough, medications may be needed. Prescriptions must be taken depending on your situation.

If coronary artery disease is diagnosed, your doctor will likely recommend aspirin and a statin.

The PCSK9 inhibitor evolocumab (Repatha) has significantly reduced the risk of strokes and strokes in people with cardiovascular disease.

Surgery and other procedures

The most common ones for treating coronary artery disease include:

  • Balloon angioplasty.
  • Stent placement.
  • Coronary artery bypass surgery.

These increase the blood supply to the heart, but they do not cure coronary heart disease. Prevention of heart disease is the key.

Doctors are also studying innovative ways to treat heart disease, including:

Angiogenesis:  This involves things like stem cells and other genetic material that are delivered through the vein or directly into damaged heart tissue.

It is made to help new blood vessels grow and bypass clogged ones.

CPM  (Enhanced External Counterpulsation): People who have chronic angina, but are not helped by nitrate medications or do not qualify for some procedures, may find relief.

It is an outpatient procedure that uses cuffs on the legs that are inflated and deflated to increase the blood supply to the coronary arteries.

What to do if you have a coronary emergency

  • Learn to recognize the symptoms of heart disease and what causes them.
  • Call the doctor if new symptoms appear or if the symptoms become frequent or more severe.
  • If you have chest pain, especially if you also have shortness of breath, palpitations, dizziness, a fast heartbeat, nausea, or sweating, call 911.
  • If you take nitroglycerin for chest pain, call 911 if the pain is still felt after two doses (5-minute intervals) or after 15 minutes.
  • Emergency personnel suggests chewing an aspirin to help prevent a blood clot from forming or growing.