Coronary Heart Disease (CHD - also known as Coronary Artery Disease) is a narrowing of the small blood vessels which supply blood to the heart itself. Hereditary and lifestyle factors can contribute to the risk of getting this condition. It is the most common cause of exercise-related death in those over the age of 35. It is also an occasional cause of sudden cardiac death in younger individuals.
What are the Symptoms of Coronary Heart Disease?
Symptoms vary considerably in severity, depending on the extent of the condition. Some people may have the disease but not show any symptoms.
Common symptoms include:
- Chest pain (angina).
- Pain may radiate into the nack or arms.
- Pain is usually worse with exercise or stress.
- Shortness of breath.
What Causes CHD?
CHD is caused by a build-up of fatty deposits on the inner walls of blood vessels, resulting in a narrowing of the vessel. This is known as Atherosclerosis. Narrower blood vessels result in a decrease in blood flow to the heart, causing the symptoms described above. If blood flow is stopped altogether, the individual will suffer a heart attack.
There are many things which contribute to your risk of developing CHD. These include:
- Hereditary factors - If there is a history of heart disease in your family, this increases your risk of developing it.
- Males are more likely to have heart disease, especially at younger ages.
- High blood pressure.
- High cholesterol.
- Excess body fat, especially around the waist.
- Kidney disease.
- Alcohol abuse.
- High-stress levels.
- Lack of exercise.
How is it Diagnosed?
When CHD is suspected, a set of tests are usually performed to gain a definitive diagnosis. These may include:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG).
- CT angiography.
- Exercise stress test.
- Magnetic resonance angiography.
How is Coronary Heart Disease Treated?
Treatment of CHD usually involves one or more medications, as well as lifestyle changes (if appropriate). These changes may include losing weight, changing the diet, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol intake and trying to limit stress levels.
Medications used for coronary heart disease include:
- ACE inhibitors - These lower blood pressure and protect the heart and kidneys.
- Aspirin - To thin blood and reduce the risk of clotting and heart attacks.
- Beta-blockers - These lower the heart rate and blood pressure.
- Diuretics - Lower blood pressure and treat heart failure.
- Statins - Lower cholesterol.
- Nitrates - To stop chest pain and improve blood flow to the heart.