Coronary arteries are the major blood vessels that deliver blood, oxygen and other nutrients to the heart. When they are damaged or weakened, coronary artery disease develops. Deposits that contain cholesterol, known as plaque, and inflammation are major contributors to this condition.
The plaque that develops in coronary arteries can cause them to narrow. When this occurs, less blood flow is permitted to reach the heart, resulting in possible shortness of breath, chest pain (angina) or other issues. A heart attack can occur if a coronary artery becomes blocked completely. A blockage takes quite some time to form, sometimes decades. Therefore, symptoms or problems may go unnoticed until a major event like a heart attack happens.
When the heart receives a significant decrease in oxygenated blood, symptoms of coronary artery disease may become problematic. Pressure or tightness in the chest region, known as angina, is one of the first symptoms many people may notice. Angina is commonly felt in the left side or middle of the chest and can be set off by some physically or emotionally stressful event. It’s also possible for the pain to be felt elsewhere in the body, like the arm, back or neck. This is particularly the case with women.
Shortness of breath occurs as a result of artery narrowing, as well. Extreme fatigue can also be a result of too little blood reaching the heart. Any type of physical activity or exertion can cause fatigue and shortness of breath. Complete arterial blockage is likely to lead to a heart attack. The feeling of crushing pain or pressure in the chest as if someone is standing on it is a classic heart attack symptom. Pain in the shoulder, neck or arm is also possible in conjunction with a heart attack. As are sweating and shortness of breath.
When the inner layer of the coronary artery is damaged or injured, it is believed that coronary artery disease develops. This damage can occur at any time during the lifespan, even during childhood. A number of things can contribute to the damage, including a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure. Plaque and other types of waste are drawn to the site of injury. This is known as atherosclerosis. Another problem that can arise is when ruptured plaques attract blood platelets that can form into an artery-blocking clump, signaling a heart attack.
Coronary artery disease can have grave health ramifications, making it crucial to see a doctor if you believe you are at risk for the condition. If this sounds like your situation, make an appointment at Cardiac Associates of North Jersey in Oakland. Taking a proactive stance is preferable to waiting until you are suffering a heart attack. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.