submitted by Dr. Shahzad Ahmed MD, FACC, FSCAI, RPVI
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease affecting 18 million American adults. With coronary artery disease, your arteries that supply essential nutrients like oxygen to the heart, become damaged. The main reason for CAD is buildup of fat and cholesterol in blood that sticks to the inner walls of blood vessels resulting in narrowing of these vessels, called atherosclerosis. Over time, these arteries get narrowed and blocked, resulting in chest pain or heart attack.
Individuals with the following health conditions are at increased risk of CAD
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes Mellites
- High Cholesterol
- Family history of CAD at young age
- Unhealthy lifestyle, like lack of exercise and poor eating habits
CAD usually takes decades to develop and manifest into chest pain or heart attack. The signs and symptoms of CAD varies. Some patients have no symptoms, while others have chest pain, chest pressure, heartburn, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, extreme sweating, and weakness. If you have any of these symptoms, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room for evaluation. You should not delay your care due to Covid-19 concerns.
“Due to fears of contracting Covid-19 or taking up space in hospitals, patients experiencing a heart attack or stroke are delaying their essential care, causing a new public health crisis,” said Martha Gulati, MD, FACC, editor-in-chief of CardioSmart.org.
Your doctor can diagnose CAD based on your signs and symptoms, medical history, blood tests and imaging like chest X-ray, echocardiogram (EKG), and stress test. An EKG reviews the electrical activity of the heart muscle and can detect heart damage and assess heart structures and functions. A stress test involves exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike (or medicine) to evaluate blocked heart arteries. A computed tomography (CT) angiography scan of the heart shows pictures of the heart’s arteries and whether there is a buildup of plaque, even in the early stages before the plaque hardens. Coronary angiogram is done in the cardiac catheterization laboratory. It involves threading a thin tube or catheter into an artery, usually in the wrist or leg, and into the heart. Dye is injected into the artery to evaluate it for any blockages. This test usually is recommended when a non-invasive one is abnormal, a patient’s symptoms strongly suggest CAD, or after a heart attack.
Dr. Ahmed is currently accepting new patients at BMC Cardiology Practice, 501 Bath Road in Bristol. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 215-785-5100.
PHOTO CAP: Dr. Shahzad Ahmed