Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, costing the lives of over half a million Americans each year. Coronary artery disease is a condition where plaque builds up in the coronary arteries that are responsible for supplying your heart muscle with oxygenated blood. Research has suggested the disease begins with certain factors damaging the inner layers of your coronary arteries.
Some of the risk factors for CAD include:
- Unhealthy blood cholesterol, a high LDL level and a low HDL level.
- High blood pressure
- Smoking, which can damage and tighten blood vessels
- Diabetes and insulin resistance
- Being overweight or obese
- Metabolic syndrome
- Physical inactivity
- Age. As we get older, the risk of coronary artery disease increases. Genetic and lifestyle factors cause plaque to build up over time, leading to enough plaque to cause issues by the time we reach middle age. In men, the risk increases after age 45, and after age 55 for women.
- Family history. If a father or brother was diagnosed with CAD before 55, or a mother or sister before 65, your personal risk increases.
CAD is caused by the body’s healing process. When damage to the arteries occurs, excess fatty tissues release compounds to promote healing. Over time, this causes plaque to build up. Over time, the plaque may crack and platelets may clump around it to form clots, narrowing the arteries more.
A common symptom of CAD is angina, which is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when the heart muscle isn’t receiving enough oxygen.