What is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease has worked its way to the top of statistics lists, as being ranked the number one leading cause of death in America. CAD is characterized by the buildup of plaque (fat, cholesterol, calcium, fibrin, and cellular wastes) and the hardening of epicardial coronary arteries, atherosclerosis.

When plaque builds up in the coronary arteries two things can occur, a thrombus (blood clot) can form or a piece of the plaque can break lose. The first step to this process occurs when the arterial walls become damaged by acid blood. Abrasions occur and the body produces cholesterol, which acts as a patch to protect the damaged area. Over time the plaque will become so thick that it will completely block the arteries. If this occurs, it can cause some very serious conditions, myocardial infarction (heart attack) or a CVA (stroke).

 

Heart

 

The heart is the most vital organ in the human body. It varies in weight from men (10-12 oz.) and women (8-10 oz.). The heart consists of two sides (left & right) and four chambers and has many functions that are very important.

Right atrium receives de-oxygenated blood from the body and pumps blood into the right ventricle

Left atrium receives oxygen rich blood and pumps it to the left ventricle

Right ventricle receives de-oxygenated blood from the right atrium and pumps de-oxygenated blood to the lungs

Left ventricle receives oxygenated blood from the left atrium and pumps oxygenated blood to the body

 

The two sides of the heart are separated by the septum (muscular wall). Three layers make up the heart.

Pericardium (conical sac) protects the heart and holds the pericardial fluid (lubricate), which allows the heart to pump, without friction.

Endocardium is the inner layer and consists of endothelial cells

Myocardium is the middle layer and is made up of the cardiac muscles

 

The electrical pulses are produced by the sinoatrial node, which is better known as the heart’s natural pacemaker.

 

Function

 

The heart’s main function is to provide the human cells with oxygen and nutrients. It also removes metabolic waste products and assists in keeping the body free of disease and infection.

 

Etiology

 

There are many causes that are linked to coronary artery disease. More often than not, sedentary lifestyle practices can put one at a higher risk of getting this condition. Of course, smoking is also a highly ranked risk factor. Others factors includes hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, radiation therapy, and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol).

 

Diagnosis

Blood pressure monitoring

Electrocardiogram (ECD)

Exercise stress test

Coronary angiogram (done during a cardiac catheterization)

Echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart)

Magnetic resonance angiography

LDL, HDL, and triglycerides (blood tests used to check cholesterol levels)