Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery

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Coronary Artery DiseaseOverview / About

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), sometimes also called Coronary Heart Disease, is the most common type of heart disease. It is the leading cause of death in the United States in both men and women. CAD occurs when the arteries that supply blood to heart muscle become hardened and narrowed. This is due to the buildup of cholesterol and other material, called plaque, on their inner walls. This buildup is called atherosclerosis. As it grows, less blood can flow through the arteries. As a result, the heart muscle can't get the blood or oxygen it needs. This can lead to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack. Most heart attacks happen when a blood clot suddenly cuts off the hearts' blood supply, causing permanent heart damage. Over time, CAD can also weaken the heart muscle and contribute to heart failure and arrhythmias. Heart failure means the heart can't pump blood well to the rest of the body. Arrhythmias are changes in the normal beating rhythm of the heart.

Risk factors you can't control are age, gender, and family history of CAD. Many people have at least one CAD risk factor. Your risk of CAD and heart attack increases with the number of risk factors you have and their severity. Risk factors that may be modified include smoking, elevated cholesterol levels, elevated blood glucose levels, lack of exercise, poor dietary habits, being overweight/obese, and elevated blood pressure.

We will determine more about your condition using a Cardiac ECHO (echocardiogram), a type of ultrasound test that uses high-pitched sound waves that are sent through a device called a transducer. The device picks up echoes of the sound waves as they bounce off the different parts of your heart. These echoes are turned into moving pictures of your heart that can be seen on a video screen.