Coronary Artery Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.
Coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease, refers to a narrowed or blocked heart artery. It can develop over several years, but strike without warning in the form of a heart attack, chest pain or other emergency condition. Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute is a national and international leader in treating coronary artery disease. Our doctors are world-renowned experts in the diagnosis and the latest treatment options for coronary artery disease.
Many cardiovascular conditions, including coronary artery disease, are related to a process known as atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis in the body
Throughout your life, arteries in your body build up plaque, a waxy substance made up of cholesterol and other materials. This process, known as atherosclerosis, leads to narrowed, or “hardened” arteries. When this happens, it is more difficult for blood to flow through your arteries, which can lead to several associated conditions, including stroke, carotid artery disease (plaque in the neck arteries that supply the brain), peripheral artery disease and chronic kidney disease.
The development of coronary artery disease
When atherosclerosis is in the arteries that supply the heart muscle, it’s known as coronary artery disease. This plaque buildup can lead to a number of associated complications and conditions, including:
Treatment for coronary artery disease depends on which of these or other related complications you’re experiencing. However, if you are experiencing unstable angina pain or suspect you’re having a heart attack, immediately call 911 or have someone drive you to the emergency room.
Coronary artery disease symptoms
In some cases, there may be no symptoms. When there are, they can include:
- Pain outside of the chest, such as in the arms, shoulders, jaw or back
- A feeling of tightness, squeezing or burning in the chest
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
Diagnosis and testing
At your initial visit, your cardiologist will ask you about any symptoms and conduct a complete physical exam as well as a medical and family history. Your physician may also order routine blood tests, such as a screening to check your cholesterol levels. In addition, we may refer you for advanced diagnostic testing at Henry Ford Cardiovascular Laboratories, where we offer a complete spectrum of testing.
Major known risk factors for coronary artery disease include:
- Cholesterol, including high LDL (bad) cholesterol, low HDL (good) cholesterol and high triglycerides (a type of fat)
- High blood pressure
- Family history of heart disease
- Sedentary lifestyle
In recent years, researchers have also identified other potential causes of heart disease. These include sleep apnea and high levels of homocysteine (an amino acid).
Reduce your risk
Certain risk factors, such as age and family history, cannot be controlled. However, by adopting a healthy, balanced lifestyle, you can reduce your risk of developing coronary artery disease. This includes good nutrition, exercise, weight management, minimizing your stress and quitting smoking if you’re a smoker.