The disease is often referred to as the “silent killer” because the signs can be so vague. You may not ever know you have coronary artery disease until you have a heart attack. Make an appointment with a top cardiologist, a best rated heart doctor in NYC, Dr. Ghalchi to get proper diagnosis and treatment.
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease is the number one cause of death in the country, according to the National Institutes of Health. Sometimes referred to as CAD, it’s also the most common type of heart disease among both women and men. Heart disease in general kills about one in every four Americans each year, with CAD accounting for more than 370,000 deaths annually.
Recent advances in preventive healthcare and cardiology have greatly improved the management and prognosis of CAD. When it comes to cardiovascular disease, and CAD specifically, prevention is the name of the game.
Coronary artery disease often occurs when cholesterol in the form of plaque builds up on the insides of your arteries. The buildup, called atherosclerosis, restricts the blood flow to your heart. When your heart can’t get enough oxygen and blood, that’s when you might experience:
Beware: Symptoms Vary
Before you experience one of the big signs of CAD, like a heart attack or arrhythmia, you may have more subtle symptoms. The most common early warning sign is angina — chest pain that feels like someone’s sitting on your chest. The pressure then can trigger pain to your arms, legs and neck.
Other symptoms that could indicate the early stages of coronary heart disease include:
Consult with cardiovascular doctor for proper diagnosis.
The Causes Aren’t Always Obvious
If CAD is diagnosed early, you stand a good chance of avoiding drastic treatments that could even include surgery. But the symptoms aren’t always clear and persistent. The disease is often referred to as the “silent killer” because the signs can be so vague. You may not ever know you have coronary artery disease until you have a heart attack.
Some of the common symptoms for CAD can include shortness of breath or chest pains. Your risk factors, however, might play a larger role in helping identify coronary artery disease before you have a major event like a heart attack. While any of the risk factors alone can lead to the cardiovascular condition, a combination of risk factors puts you at even higher risk. The most common causes include:
- Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke
- Aging, which naturally causes arteries to thicken
- Diabetes, especially type 2, which is associated highly with CAD
- Gender — men are at a higher risk than women
- Obesity, with a 30 body mass index (BMI) or higher
- Inactivity or a lack of regular exercise
- High blood pressure
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Stress that’s unrelieved
- Family history of CAD
Treatment Requires Changes
The majority of risk factors for coronary artery disease are manageable, but they require a commitment to change. Quitting smoking, losing weight and exercising more reduce your risk for heart disease. While changing a lifetime of habits isn’t easy, it can mean the difference between life and death. And it certainly plays a role in the quality of life you can enjoy.
Regular cardiovascular doctor checkups and a relationship with your heart doctor or cardiologist also can help you find a treatment plan to assist in your progress. There are drugs and surgical interventions that can improve and restore blood flow, but even with these more drastic measures, you’d still benefit from basic changes to your lifestyle. Your cardiologist in NYC can even help with strategies to accomplish this.
Tests for Verification
If you’ve had a major event like a heart attack or you’re at risk for developing heart disease, your heart doctor can run tests to evaluate you for CAD. A few of those procedures include:
- An electrocardiogram, commonly referred to as an EKG or ECG. It’s a test that records the electrical signals put out in the upper chambers of your heart. The test involves attaching sticky pads with electrodes on them to various parts of your body. It’s completely painless and non-invasive. The impulses that go through these electrodes are then recorded so your heart doctor can see them in real time and get immediate results.
- A stress test, sometimes called an exercise test because you’re asked to run on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike for a certain amount of time. Your heart doctor monitors how your heart works under pressure. The harder you ride or run, the more blood needs to pump through your heart. You’ll be hooked up to a monitor during the test. You may often have an echocardiogram test as well, the results of which your heart doctor can see in real time.
- An echocardiogram, which is another non-invasive test that relies on sound waves through an ultrasound machine to test your heart. A hand-held wand is placed on your chest that shows a detailed picture of your heart, evaluating both the structure and function in real time. An echocardiogram often is given in conjunction with a Doppler ultrasound that evaluates the blood flow across your heart’s valves.
Further Treatment Options
After making significant lifestyle changes, you still may carry too many risk factors that put you in danger of heart failure. While you may not be able to fully recover to your former healthy state once you’ve developed coronary artery disease, you can still reach for manageable goals, such as relieving your symptoms, reducing risk factors and preventing further complications.
Medications to treat underlying conditions often are used by cardiologists to reduce the risk of CAD and can include medication to control:
- High cholesterol
- Blood pressure
- Blood clots
- Blood sugar
Surgical options also may be required to open blocked arteries. The primary surgeries used to treat coronary heart disease are:
- Bypass grafting, during which veins and arteries are taken from other parts of your body and placed so that they bypass your blocked blood vessels, allowing your blood to flow freely to your heart.
- Angioplasty and stenting, usually an outpatient procedure that requires the surgeon to place a flexible tube through a passageway to the blocked blood vessel. A balloon on the end of the thin tube is inflated, allowing it to compress the built-up plaque on the walls of your artery to let the blood flow again. Your physician may insert a stent, which is a mesh tube, over the artery to prevent further blocking.
These and other tests are available at Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates under management of a leading NYC’s heart doctor, cardiologist Dr. Ghalchi. Make an appointment today to get tested.
Dr. Michael Ghalchi, Cardiologist (NYC Heart Doctor)
New York, NY 10010
(Between Madison Ave & Park Ave)
☎ (212) 686-0066