What is coronary heart disease?
Coronary heart disease (CHD), also known as ischaemic heart disease, is when the coronary arteries narrow over time due to a build-up of fatty material within the artery walls. The coronary arteries are responsible for supplying the heart with oxygenated blood.
Prognosis of coronary heart disease:
If treated, the symptoms of coronary heart disease can be lessened and the function of the heart can be improved.
Symptoms of coronary heart disease:
The most common symptoms of coronary heart disease include:
- Angina (chest pain)
- Heart attacks
- Heart failure
- Heart palpitations
Medical tests to diagnose coronary heart disease:
If your doctor suspects you might be at risk for coronary heart disease, then they might recommend you have a risk assessment done. There is a national screening program in place in the UK which offers free screenings for those aged 40-74 years old in England and between 40-64 years old in Scotland.
A risk assessment can involve:
- Blood test
- Review of medical and family history
- CT scan
- MRI scan
- Coronary angiography
- Treadmill test
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
What are the causes of coronary heart disease?
The process of the coronary arteries becoming blocked by fatty deposits is called atherosclerosis, and the fatty deposits are known as atheroma.
There are certain risk factors that can cause atherosclerosis, including:
- Heavy drinking
- High cholesterol
- Sedentary lifestyle (lack of exercise)
- Family history of CHD
Can coronary heart disease be prevented?
Certain lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease, including:
- Exercising regularly
- Maintaining a healthier weight
- Quitting smoking
- Reducing alcohol consumption
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet low in cholesterol
- Controlling blood pressure
- Managing diabetes well
Treatments for coronary heart disease:
There is no cure for coronary heart disease, however, there are treatments available to both manage the symptoms and reduce the likelihood of a heart attack.
The main treatments include lifestyle changes, medications, surgery, and angioplasty.
Medications that treat CHD can either widen the arteries or reduce blood pressure. The following are common medications given to CHD patients:
- Statins – lowers cholesterol
- Antiplatelets – blood thinners
- Beta-blockers – treat hypertension and prevents angina
- ACE inhibitors & calcium channel blockers – reduce blood pressure
Angioplasty is an emergency treatment option for those having a heart attack. A small balloon is inserted into the narrowed artery, pushing out the fatty deposits. A stent is then inserted to hold the artery open.
Other surgical treatments include:
- Coronary artery bypass graft
- Heart transplant
Which type of specialist treats coronary heart disease?
A cardiologist would treat coronary heart disease.