Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women.
Arteries have three unique layers. The inner layer is the first place heart disease begins to take place. Abnormalities caused by high blood pressure, diabetes, or toxic products like nicotine or homocysteine cause abnormalities and begin to damage the lining of the artery. The resulting damage causes a cholesterol patch to form which then causes inflammation and attracts additional clots. When the media or middle lining of the artery is exposed to blood the body begins to add cholesterol and a cycle of inflammation causing damage to the artery leading to a condition known as atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a condition in which fatty material collects along the walls of arteries. This fatty material thickens, hardens (forms calcium deposits), and may eventually block the arteries. Atherosclerosis is a type of arteriosclerosis. The two terms are often used to mean the same thing.
What are the symptoms of heart disease?
Symptoms of heart disease may be very noticeable, but sometimes you can have the disease and not be aware of any symptoms.
Chest pain or discomfort (angina) is the most common symptom. This pain is caused when the heart is not getting enough blood or oxygen. The intensity of pain varies from person to person. Common heart attack symptoms include:
- Squeezing, pressure, or tightness in the chest and the feeling as if someone is clenching your heart. You feel it under your breast bone (sternum), but also in your neck, arms, stomach, or upper back.
- The pain usually occurs with activity or emotion, and goes away with rest or a medicine called nitroglycerin.
- Other symptoms include shortness of breath and fatigue with activity (exertion).
What are treatment options for heart disease?
Common treatments for coronary artery disease include medications aimed at reducing high blood pressure or hypertension, diabetes (glucose), and high cholesterol. Treatment depends on symptoms and the severity of the disease. Options for treatment may include:
- ACE inhibitors to lower blood pressure and protect your heart
- Beta-blockers to lower heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen use by the heart
- Calcium channel blockers to relax arteries, lowering blood pressure and reducing strain on the heart
- Diuretics to lower blood pressure and treat congestive heart failure
- Nitrates (such as nitroglycerin) to stop chest pain and improve blood supply to the heart
- Statins to lower cholesterol
To find a cardiologist in Memphis, Tennessee, please use our physician locator or call 901.516.9000.