What Is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease develops when your coronary arteries - the major blood vessels that supply your heart with blood, oxygen and nutrients - become damaged or diseased. Cholesterol-containing deposits (plaque) on your arteries are usually to blame for coronary artery disease. Chronic Total Occlusion (CTO) is a type of coronary artery disease that is caused by a heavy build-up of plaque in the arteries that carry blood to your heart.

Symptoms

As plaque builds up in your coronary arteries, you may develop coronary artery disease symptoms, including:

  • Chest Pain (angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Heart Attack

Causes and Risk Factors

Coronary artery disease is thought to begin with damage or injury to the inner layer of a coronary artery. The damage may be caused by various factors, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • High stress
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking

Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider will ask questions about your medical history, do a physical exam and order routine blood tests. He or she may suggest one or more diagnostic tests as well, including:

Treatment

Treatment for coronary artery disease usually involves lifestyle changes and, if necessary, drugs and certain medical procedures. Procedures to restore and improve blood flow are:

Prevention

The same lifestyle habits that can help treat coronary artery disease can also help prevent it from developing in the first place. Leading a healthy lifestyle can help keep your arteries strong and clear of plaques. To improve your heart health, you can:

  • Be physically active
  • Control conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes
  • Eat healthy food
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce and manage stress
  • Quit Smoking

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Patient Story

Gina Simpson, Heart Disease