Heart Disease (Coronary Artery Disease) (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI
Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- What is heart disease?
- What are the risk factors for heart disease?
- What causes heart disease?
- What are the symptoms of heart disease?
- How is heart disease diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for heart disease?
- What is the prognosis for heart disease?
- Can heart disease be prevented?
- Heart Disease FAQs
- Find a local Cardiologist in your town
What are the risk factors for heart disease?
Factors that increase the risk of developing atherosclerotic heart disease include the following:
Since heart disease, peripheral artery disease, and stroke share the same risk factors, a patient who is diagnosed with one of the three has increased risk of having or developing the others.
What causes heart disease?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and can be attributed to the lifestyle factors that increase the risk of atherosclerosis or narrowing of arteries. Smoking, along with poorly controlled hypertension, and diabetes, causes inflammation and irritation of the inner lining of the coronary arteries. Over time, cholesterol in the bloodstream can collect in the inflamed areas and begin the formation of a plaque. This plaque can grow and as it does, the diameter of the artery for blood flow narrows. If the artery narrows by 40% to 50%, blood flow is compromised or decreased enough to potentially cause the symptoms of angina.
In some circumstances, the plaque can rupture or break open, leading to the formation of a blood clot in the coronary artery. This prevents oxygen-rich blood from being delivered to the heart muscle beyond that blockage and that part of the heart begins to die. This is a myocardial infarction or heart attack. If the situation is not recognized and treated, the affected muscle cannot be revived and is replaced by scar tissue. Long term, this scar tissue decreases the heart's ability to pump effectively and efficiently and may lead to ischemic cardiomyopathy (ischemic=decreased blood supply + cardio=heart + myo=muscle + pathy=disease).
Heart muscle that lacks adequate blood supply also becomes irritable and may not conduct electrical impulses normally. This can lead to abnormal electrical heart rhythms including ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation. These are the heart arrhythmias associated with sudden cardiac death.
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