What You Should Know About Coronary Artery Disease

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Our hearts pump us up every day. Strong hearts get us to the local 5k finish line, power us through a pick-up basketball game, allow us to catch up with a friend during a walk through the neighborhood, and chase after our grandkids. You see, your heart health is at the center of your ability to live your best life. But hearts aren't infallible. Our major arteries are danger zones for plaque build-up which can slow us down, leave us breathless, and impact our whole health in the long run.

This build-up leads to coronary artery disease (CAD), which is a serious heart disease that affects millions of Americans. CAD occurs when excess cholesterol leaves waxy deposits in the arteries leading to and from our hearts. These deposits – plaque – can lead to heart disease. The good news is that it can often be prevented. Learn more about CAD and how you can take charge for better heart health.

How Plaque Forms

Plaque can begin to build in our arteries as early as childhood. When we eat foods high in saturated and trans fat, our bodies cannot effectively break down the proteins and cholesterol in food. Instead of leaving the body through waste, it gets deposited in our arteries. Slowly, those deposits can become larger and begin to impact blood flow. When plaque ruptures, a blood clot from the rupture can stop blood flow and cause a serious heart attack.

Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease

Researchers have identified several factors to help individuals better manage their risk of developing CAD, including:

  • Age
  • Diabetes
  • Diet high in saturated fat, trans fat, salt, and sugar
  • Family history
  • Gender
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Physical inactivity
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Smoking

Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease

As coronary arteries narrow, your body will begin to experience several notable and concerning symptoms, including:

  • Chest pain: Tightness or pressure in the chest during physical activity or emotional stress. Women may feel brief, sharp pain in the neck, arm, or back.
  • Heart attack: Symptom of a heart attack include crushing pressure in the chest, pain in the shoulder and arm, shortness of breath and sweating. Women are more likely to experience less typical signs, such as neck or jaw pain.
  • Shortness of breath: Feeling unusually breathless or extremely fatigued after everyday activities, such as climbing steps, cleaning or simple exercise may be a sign of CAD.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you have any risk factors or symptoms of CAD, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Together, you can create a plan to improve your heart health and lower your risk of heart attack. Your doctor can work with you to create a whole-health plan that prioritizes a healthy lifestyle, including a heart-healthy diet, regular physical activity, and if required, medication. It’s our goal to keep your heart healthy and strong, so you can enjoy your favorite activities – and loved ones – while feeling whole.

Learn more about our heart care team who can help you prevent, treat and even reverse symptoms of coronary disease.

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