Coronary artery disease also referred to, as CAD is a condition that involves the arteries that are responsible for supplying the heart muscle. This is the most known form of heart disease, and seems to be a growing problem mainly in the U.S. and Europe. However, in the Asian countries, especially Japan, their incidence of heart disease is significantly lower. This is probably due to the fact that their diets are lower in cholesterol and saturated fats.
With CAD the arteries become narrow due to the atherosclerotic deposits (cholesterol, calcium, triglycerides) over time. This can lead to a temporary lack of blood supply to the heart, which in turn can lead to a myocardial infarction (heart attack).
Arteriosclerosis is also referred to as “the hardening of the arteries”, and is commonly affiliated with the elderly, and those with diabetes. Over time the arteries lose elasticity, which leads them to become narrow and hard. Those individuals that are at a higher risk of CAD are those with a genetic disposition to it, older than 40 years old, Caucasians, and postmenopausal women.
There are other things that can increase the individuals’ risk factors such as: history of smoking, the presence of hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, or obesity. Another risk factor is living a sedentary lifestyle (lack of exercise), and continual high levels of stress.
The treatment that many physicians start is the use of vasodilators, which will help to open and relax the heart vessels. Occasionally an angioplasty is performed to attempt to open the constrict arteries. This procedure is performed in hopes of improving blood flow to the heart muscle. Beta-blockers and anticoagulants are also used to help prevent blood clots from forming, breaking off, and becoming stuck in the cerebral (brain) arteries.
The prevention measures that can be taken to attempt to avoid CAD are a diet that is low in salt, fat, and cholesterol. It is recommended to exercise regularly, reduce stress, and stop smoking. The general prognosis varies and is based on how each individual patient responds to treatment.