What is a Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary Artery Disease is a disorder that occurs when your coronary arteries are either diseased or damaged. Coronary arteries supply the heart with blood and oxygen. When plaque (arteriosclerosis) deposits in your coronary arteries the arteries narrow and the amount of blood and oxygen supplied to the heart are restricted. This decreased blood flow may lead to a heart attack.

What causes Coronary Artery Disease?

Cholesterol deposits in the coronary arteries, known as plaque, develop over many years. These deposits cause the artery to narrow, which results in a reduced amount of blood and oxygen flow to the heart. This reduction often ends in a heart attack. Because Coronary Artery Disease typically develops over a lifetime, there are many factors that may lead to damage of the arteries. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure and/or cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Certain types of radiation

What are the symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease?

The beginning stages of Coronary Artery Disease do not typically cause noticeable symptoms. But as plaque continues to build in the arteries symptoms may begin to present, especially when the heart is working hard (like during exercise) to supply the heart with oxygen and blood. The most common symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease are:

  • Angina, or chest pain; this pain typically feels like pressure or tightness in the chest and may be triggered by physical or emotional stress
  • Shortness of breath due to lack of an oxygen-rich blood supply
  • Heart attacks occur when the artery is completely blocked due to plaque

How is Coronary Artery Disease diagnosed ?

Exempla Rocky Mountain Cardiovascular Associates identifies Coronary Artery Disease with some of the following tests:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Computed Tomography scan
  • Stress testing
  • Angiography

How is Coronary Artery Disease treated ?

The specialists at Exempla Rocky Mountain Cardiovascular Associates work with each patient to treat Coronary Artery Disease though an individual treatment plan. Plans may include lifestyle changes, medications and/or Cardiac Catheterization Lab.

Lifestyle changes:
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Maintaining a healthy body mass index
  • Physical exercise
  • Quitting smoking
  • Reduce stress
  • Anticoagulants or blood thinners like Aspirin
  • Ace inhibitors
  • Beta blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Nitroglycerin
  • Statins
Cardiac Catheterization Lab:
  • Angioplasty
  • Coronary Artery Stent Placement