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Could I Be Suffering From Coronary Heart Disease?

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • In cases where a family member has been diagnosed with coronary heart disease from a young age, other members of the same family are also considered to be at risk of developing the condition.
  • Acute coronary syndrome carries a high risk of death. The initial symptoms of such an event include tightness in the lower sternum area, heart palpitations, perspiration and difficulty breathing. In such cases, the patient should be taken to hospital as quickly as possible in order to receive treatment to open up the restricted artery and have a stent fitted.
  • A 640-slice CT scan can identify calcium levels present in arteries, offering doctors a clear picture of the situation without the need for a coronary angiogram.

 

Heart disease is second only to cancer as the most common cause of death among Thai people. Heart disease comes in many forms. The most frequent conditions include coronary heart disease, myocardial infarctions, arrhythmia and sudden cardiac arrest. The factors which lead to an increased risk of coronary heart disease include factors which can and factors which cannot be managed.

Risk factors which can be regulated:

  1. Diabetes
  2. High blood pressure
  3. High blood fat levels
  4. Smoking

Risk factors which cannot be regulated:

  • Genetic factors: in cases where a family member has been diagnosed with heart disease from an early age, other members of the same family are more at risk of also developing heart disease.
  • Age: those over the age of 40 years should have their heart screened regularly.
  • Males are more at risk than women whereas for post-menopausal women, their risk is greater than in women who have not yet reached menopause.

Coronary heart disease

occurs as a result of fat and plaque buildup within blood vessels until it reaches the point where it causes a blockage. The subsequent restriction then leads to a lack of blood flow to the heart. The condition is categorized into the two following forms:

Acute coronary syndrome

This condition carries with it a high risk of death if the patient does not receive emergent medical attention. Patients may experience symptoms such as a tightness in the sternum area of the chest, with these symptoms becoming increasingly severe, even when not exerting energy. Patients may also have heart palpitations, perspire profusely and experience difficulty breathing. The lack of blood flow to the heart can result in disability or death, depending on the severity and length of time that the blockage occurs. For this reason, it is essential that medical attention be sought as soon as the symptoms present themselves, so that doctors may open up the blocked artery using coronary stenting.

Angina

Patients with this form of coronary artery disease will suffer from symptoms which come and go, usually occurring in conjunction with exercise, for example when walking or ascending stairs. Sufferers may experience a tightness in the sternum area of the chest that tends to go away when they sit down to rest. The condition may sometimes cause a referred pain to the left shoulder that spreads to the jaw. If such symptoms occur, medical attention should be sought urgently..

Why do those at risk need to be identified?

  • Prevention of this condition is relatively simple and can be applied to anyone – whether their risk level is high or low. Preventive measures include, for example, exercising regularly, diet control, getting enough rest, reducing stress and not smoking. Moreover, for those with high blood pressure or diabetes, making certain lifestyle changes and taking the appropriate medication can make a significant difference to their level of risk.
  • Screening coronary artery calcium levels is a fast and simple process that is carried out using a 640-slice CT scan. This device enable us to capture a clear image of the heart while it is beating, offering a clear analysis of the accumulated plaque levels present in the artery walls, even when those levels are relatively low. This form of screening is therefore seen as particularly effective during the initial stages of

If you suspect that you may be at risk of coronary artery disease, or you have a family history of coronary artery disease being diagnosed from an early age, you should come in for an appointment with a doctor who will carry out a risk analysis and refer you to a specialist in the field for advice on your next steps. Just following these few simple steps can help reduce your risk of developing coronary artery disease.


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Mann Chandavimol, M.D. Summary: Internal Medicine Cardiology