What are the coronary arteries?
Coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle. Like all other tissues in the body, the heart muscle needs oxygen-rich blood to function, and oxygen-depleted blood must be carried away. The coronary arteries consist of two main arteries: the right and left coronary arteries. The left coronary artery system branches into the circumflex artery and the left anterior descending artery.
What are the different coronary arteries?
The two main coronary arteries are the left main and right coronary arteries. The left main coronary artery (LMCA), which divides into the left anterior descending artery and the circumflex branch, supplies blood to the left ventricle and left atrium. The right coronary artery (RCA), which divides into the right posterior descending and acute marginal arteries, supplies blood to the right ventricle, right atrium, sinoatrial node (cluster of cells in the right atrial wall that regulates the heart's rhythmic rate), and atrioventricular node (AV node, a cluster of cells between the atria and ventricles that regulate the electrical current).
What is coronary artery disease?
Coronary heart disease, or coronary artery disease (CAD), is characterized by the accumulation of fatty deposits along the innermost layer of the coronary arteries. The fatty deposits may develop in childhood and continue to thicken and enlarge throughout the life span. This thickening, called atherosclerosis, narrows the arteries and can decrease or block the flow of blood to the heart.
What are the risk factors for coronary artery disease?
Risk factors for CAD often include:
High LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides levels, and reduced HDL cholesterol
High blood pressure (hypertension)
High saturated fat diet
What are the symptoms of coronary artery disease?
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The symptoms of coronary heart disease will depend on the severity of the disease. Some persons with CAD have no symptoms, some have episodes of mild chest pain or angina, and some have more severe chest pain.
If too little oxygenated blood reaches the heart, a person will experience chest pain called angina. When the blood supply is completely cut off, the result is a heart attack, and the heart muscle begins to die. Some persons may have a heart attack and never recognize the symptoms. This is called a "silent" heart attack.
When symptoms are present, each person may experience them differently. Symptoms of coronary artery disease may include:
heaviness, tightness, pressure, and/or pain in the chest - behind the breastbone
pain radiating in the arms, shoulders, jaw, neck, and/or back
shortness of breath
weakness and fatigue
If you or someone you know is concerned about these symptoms, don't hesitate to contact the Broward Health Line at 954-759-7400 for more information and a free physician referral.
To request an appointment online, please complete the Appointment Request Form.
How is Coronary Artery Disease Diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for coronary artery disease may include any, or a combination of, the following:
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) - a test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias), and detects heart muscle damage.
Stress Test (usually with ECG; also called treadmill or exercise ECG) - a test that is given while a patient walks on a treadmill to monitor the heart during exercise. Breathing and blood pressure rates are also monitored. A stress test may be used to detect coronary artery disease, and/or to determine safe levels of exercise following a heart attack or heart surgery.
Cardiac Catheterization - with this procedure, x-rays are taken after a contrast agent is injected into an artery - to locate the narrowing, occlusions, and other abnormalities of specific arteries.
Nuclear Scanning - radioactive material is injected into a vein and then is observed using a camera as it is taken up by the heart muscle. This indicates the healthy and damaged areas of the heart.
Treatment for Coronary Artery Disease:
Modification of risk factors - Risk factors that may be modified include smoking, elevated cholesterol levels, elevated blood glucose levels, lack of exercise, poor dietary habits, being overweight/obese, and elevated blood pressure.
Medications - Medications that may be used to treat coronary artery disease include:
antiplatelet medications - medications used to decrease the ability of platelets in the blood to stick together and cause clots. Aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), ticlopidine (Ticlid), and prasugrel are examples of antiplatelet medications.
anticoagulants - also described as "blood thinners," these medications work differently than antiplatelet medications to decrease the ability of the blood to clot. An example of an anticoagulant is warfarin (Coumadin).
antihyperlipidemics - medications used to lower lipids (fats) in the blood, particularly Low Density Lipid (LDL) cholesterol. Statins are a group of antihyperlipidemic medications, and include simvastatin (Zocor), atorvastatin (Lipitor), and pravastatin (Pravachol), among others. Bile acid sequestrants - colesevelam, cholestyramine and colestipol - and nicotinic acid (niacin) are two other types of medications that may be used to reduce cholesterol levels.
antihypertensives - medications used to lower blood pressure. There are several different groups of medications which act in different ways to lower blood pressure.
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Don't Ignore Your Symptoms
Nearly 16 million Americans suffer from coronary artery disease, and it's the number one killer of both men and women in the US. Controlling risk factors is the key to preventing illness and death from CAD.
Only a qualified physician can prescribe the appropriate treatment. For a free physician referral, call the Broward Health Line at 954-759-7400. If you prefer to search online, please visit our Physician Directory, and request and appointment through our online Appointment Request Form.