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Coronary Artery Disease

Modern day lifestyles have changed drastically as times gone by, especially for those residing in large urbanized areas. They are often under stress at work and have little time to exercise. They may also smoke and have a diet consisting mainly of fast and heavily processed food as these save time, but these foods are also high in saturated fat, a leading cause of numerous health disorders. Coronary heart disease is just one such condition with a shocking rise among the general population. Furthermore, coronary heart disease cannot be completely cured once it has taken hold, which means sufferers must take medication for the rest of their lives.

Coronary artery disease occurs due to a buildup of fat and calcium inside the coronary arteries until a blockage or deterioration occurs, leading to reduced blood flow to the heart muscle tissue. There are a number of risks that can potentially lead to coronary heart disease. These can be categorized into modifiable and unmodifiable risk factors.

Modifiable risk factors include lifestyle aspects, such as diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, stress and cardiovascular diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood fat levels. Unmodifiable risk factors include age, gender and ethnicity.

Coronary artery disease is categorized into two major types:

Acute coronary artery disease

This type of artery disease has a high mortality rate if treatment is not sought urgently enough. Patients may experience symptoms including exhaustion and a tightness in the center of the chest which gradually gets worse and more discomfort over time, even when not exerting any energy. They may also experience heart palpitations, sweating and difficulty breathing. Additionally, when the patient suffers a myocardial infarction, it could result in disability or even death depending on the severity and amount of time that blood flow to the heart is limited.

For these reasons, patients should be rushed to hospital as quickly as possible, or at least within 6-12 hours after the first symptoms occur. This will enable doctors to clear any blockages in the arteries through the use of a stent which may be inserted to expand the arteries to treat the condition, or fibrinolytic medication might be used.

Chronic coronary artery disease

The symptoms of this form of coronary artery disease may come and go according to when the patient is exerting energy, for example when walking, exercising or climbing the stairs. Patients may experience a tightening of the area around the sternum, which tends to go away again once they’ve sat down to rest. Additionally, some patients may suffer from a pain in the left shoulder which spreads to the jaw, and in such cases, the patient should seek urgent medical attention.

Treating coronary artery disease

In less severe cases, the main form of treatment involves making lifestyle modifications in conjunction with taking medication, which the patient will be required to take for the rest of their lives as a form of prevention against further buildup of fat inside the arteries. Alongside medication, patients are also advised to regulate their diet and take up regular exercise.

In serious cases with severely blocked arteries, which causes a reduction in the heart’s contraction capabilities, patients should receive a cardiac catheterization to expand the arteries through the use of a stent. Cardiac catheterization involves injecting the patient’s arteries with a radioactive fluid that helps doctors assess whether or not there is a blockage affecting the heart muscle tissue. The injected fluid furthermore enables doctors to observe the strength of the heart and how much the valves of the heart are opening and closing upon each contraction. The procedure can also provide an assessment of the internal pressure within the heart and its various sections. The process can be carried out through either a femoral artery catheterization or a radial artery catheterization. The method selected will depend on the expertise and skill of the surgeon responsible.

Once the cardiac catheterization has been completed and a blockage or restricted artery has been identified, surgeons will treat the condition by inserting a stent to expand the affected artery. This process is undertaken by inserting a coil to stretch or force the fatty buildup causing the blockage out of the way, creating more space inside the artery, so that blood can flow more freely than before.

For patients who have multiple blockages, the doctor will usually opt to perform a heart bypass operation. Such an operation comprises taking veins from the left arm or arteries from the legs. Doctors will then use these blood vessels to replace the affected blood vessels in restoring the blood flow from the aorta to the heart muscle, thus bypassing the blocked blood vessels.

If doctors suspect that a patient has risks of coronary artery disease, they will recommend a cardiac CT for calcium scoring, a highly accurate form of assessment that can provide a clear picture of the amount of calcium buildup present within the coronary arteries. Doctors can then use the information gleaned from the scan to help them make a decision on the initial course of action that is most suitable for the patient. This course of action helps to ensure that treatment can be carried out before any symptoms had the chance to present themselves, which can thereby reduce the risk of sudden fatalities occurring as a result of cardiovascular disease.

Prevention is better than treatment

Although medical technologies are constantly being developed and improved to treat all types of health disorders more effectively than ever before, caring for yourself is still the most important thing you can do to prevent against dangerous health conditions developing in the first place. Making lifestyle modifications is something that everyone should be doing to lower their own risk factors, and one way to do this is by eating a healthy, balanced diet. Reduce red meat, stick to fish or skinless chicken, and try to increase your intake of fiber through vegetables and fruit. At the same time, reduce your consumption of saturated fats that are found in fried foods and red meat. When using oil for cooking, ensure that you use rice bran oil.

Another key aspect which should coincide with a good diet is aerobic exercise, as this emphasizes heart and lung functioning. We should be exercising at least three times per week, for no less than 30 minutes per session. Additionally, all forms of smoking should be avoided. Getting plenty of rest is also essential, as are annual health checkups.

By following these simple guidelines, you can keep a safe distance between yourself and coronary artery disease.

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