Coronary artery disease arises when the coronary arteries become blocked or narrowed. This constriction can lead to severe complications, like heart attacks.

Causes and Progression of Coronary Artery Disease

The primary cause of CAD is the accumulation of plaque within the artery walls. This buildup thickens and narrows the arteries, restricting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. If unchecked, the diminished blood flow may lead to chest pains or a heart attack. In severe cases, plaque deposits might rupture or cause blood clots, intensifying the risk of fatal complications.

Risk Factors for CAD

Risk factors can be categorised into two categories:

Uncontrollable Risk Factors

  • Family History: A close relative with CAD increases your chances.
  • Age: The older you get, the more susceptible you become to deteriorating blood vessels.
  • Gender: Men are generally more prone, but post-menopausal women have nearly the same risk.

Controllable Risk Factors

A [study in Malaysia]( established modifiable risk factors,history [10%2C11].) published in 2022 revealed several lifestyle-related risk factors, such as:

  • Obesity: Gaining weight, or having a higher than normal body mass index (BMI), can increase the risk of developing heart disease and coronary artery disease. In Asian countries, it is recommended that individuals maintain a BMI of no more than 23kg/m2 to be considered healthy.
  • Diet: Consuming too many high-calorie, sugary, and fatty foods while neglecting fruits and vegetables.
  • Lack of Physical Activity: Sedentary lifestyles heighten the risk.
  • Smoking: Regular smokers and even passive smokers are at elevated risk. Harmful chemicals in cigarettes damage artery walls.
  • High Blood Pressure: Constantly high blood pressure, especially from high-salt diets, can lead to heart complications.
  • High Blood Sugar: Chronic high blood sugar deteriorates arteries over time.
  • High Blood Lipids: Abnormal fat levels in the bloodstream can lead to artery blockage.
  • Stress: Chronic stress, depression, unresolved emotions, and social isolation can increase risk.

Recognising the Symptoms of CAD

It's crucial to recognise early symptoms, which include:

  • Crushing chest pain is often described as heavy pressure.
  • Fatigue or shortness of breath, especially during physical activities.
  • Dizziness or sudden fainting.
  • Pain extending to the neck, jaw, and arms.
  • Sudden, severe symptoms pointing to a potential heart attack.

Diagnosing CAD

Alongside physical examinations, diagnostic tests include:

  • Electrocardiogram
  • Chest X-ray
  • Cardiac enzyme test
  • Exercise stress test
  • Echocardiogram
  • Computed tomographic angiography
  • Cardiac catheterization

Treatment Guidelines

  1. Lifestyle Changes: Doctors will usually advise healthy lifestyle shifts to mitigate risk factors.
  2. Medication: This can include antiplatelet, anticoagulant, and vasodilator medicines, among others.
  3. Procedures: Angioplasty, stent placement, and coronary artery bypass surgery are some treatment options.

Prevention Tips

The best protection against CAD involves:

  • Diet: Consuming a balanced diet low in salt and fat. The WHO recommends at least 600 grams of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Exercise: Engaging in consistent physical activity, even light exercises like walking.
  • Smoking: Quitting as soon as possible reduces the risk significantly.
  • Stress Management: Engage in relaxation techniques and maintain strong social ties.