Definition

The narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries (arteries around the heart) due to damage or disease.

Also Known As

  • Coronary Heart Disease
  • Ischemic Heart Disease

Causes

  • Atherosclerosis. Cholesterol-containing deposits (plaque) build up in arteries, narrowing the arteries and blocking blood flow. This blockage may lead to chest pain, shortness of breath, and/or heart attacks.

Statistics

  • CAD is the most common type of heart disease
  • Approximately 18.2 million adults over the age of 20 have been diagnosed with CAD (6.7%)

Risk Factors

Atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive disease that may begin in childhood. Exactly how it starts or what causes it is not known.

CAD may begin with injury or damage to the inner layer of the artery. Once this damage is caused, deposits and waste in the blood can accumulate at that spot. Risk factors for CAD include:

  • Age (as a person ages, they have a greater risk of CAD)
  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • Gender (men have a higher risk than women)
  • Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Obesity / Overweight
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Unhealthy diet

Certain risk factors place a person at a higher risk of CAD when grouped together. Metabolic Syndrome (elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and excess body fat around the middle) increases the risk of CAD.

Researchers are also studying sleep apnea, high sensitivity C-reactive protein, high triglycerides, homocysteine, preeclampsia, alcohol use, and autoimmune diseases as possible risk factors for CAD.

Prevention

Following a heart-healthy lifestyle can help prevent or slow down the effects of CAD. This lifestyle includes:

  • Control chronic conditions (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes)
  • Eat a low-fat, low-salt diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage stress
  • Quit smoking and tobacco use
  • Stay physically active

Vaccinations

People with heart disease and those who have suffered stroke are at higher risk for serious problems from certain diseases. Getting vaccinated is an important step in staying healthy.

CVD can make it harder to fight off certain diseases, make it more likely complications to those diseases will follow, or increase the risk of a heart attack. The CDC recommends all adults receive:

  • Influenza – recommended every year, age 6 months and older
  • Tdap – (if an adult did not receive it as an adolescent to protect against pertussis (whooping cough), and then a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years.

Additionally, the CDC recommends the following vaccines for adults suffering from CVD (talk to your doctor about which vaccines are right for you):

COVID-19 and Coronary Artery Disease

The CDC notes that, based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

From Harvard Medical School: Recent literature has described serious cardiovascular complications occurring in about 10% to 20% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Patients may suffer a heart attack or develop congestive heart failure, perhaps due to a combination of the severe viral illness and its increased demands on the heart compounded by low oxygen levels due to pneumonia and increased propensity for blood clot formation. In addition to the increase in these heart problems, a more unusual condition called myocarditis has also been observed in COVID-19 patients.

Resources

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