Coronary artery disease: Causes, symptoms and treatment 

Coronary artery disease, otherwise known as CAD, is the most common type of heart disease in the United States, killing more men and women than anything else in the country, according to the National Library of Medicine. 
CAD is caused when the arteries that bring blood to the heart become narrowed and hardened due to a buildup of cholesterol and plaque. When the heart doesn't get the blood or oxygen it needs, it can weaken, resulting in a heart attack or even heart failure.
What causes CAD?
WebMD explains that cholesterol-laden plaque deposits in blood vessel walls over a person's lifetime. But as people get older, these deposits can build up and inflame the blood vessel, causing the vessels to release a chemical that promotes a healing process. The problem is that this process makes the inner walls of the blood vessel sticky, so other cells and lipoproteins begin to make the blood vessel walls more narrow, too.
With a narrowed coronary artery, your heart has to work even harder, which can cause a lot of stress. WebMD says that even if your body tries to compensate by creating new blood vessels around the blockage, your heart might not be able to keep up during increased exertion or stress. This is what eventually causes a blood clot, stroke or heart attack.
What CAD symptoms should I look out for?
Chest pain, otherwise known as angina, is usually associated with CAD. WebMD says you should look out for:
- Heaviness, pressure, aching, burning, numbness, fullness or squeezing pain in chest
- Pain in the left shoulder, arms, neck, back or jaw
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations (like the skipping of a heartbeat)
- Faster heart beat
- Weakness
- Dizziness
- Nausea
- Sweating
It's also important to note that women might experience more subtle symptoms. If you recognize any of these symptoms, it's important to seek medical attention right away. 
Treating CAD
If you're diagnosed with coronary artery disease, your doctor might prescribe lifestyle changes, medications, surgery or even a combination of the three.
Reduce your risk factors. That means getting healthy, such as quitting smoking, and eating healthier by avoiding trans fats, salts and sugars. You should also start exercising more, but it's important to talk to your doctor about what exercises are good for you and your existing medical conditions.
Medications. Your doctor might also prescribe a medication to help manage your heart disease and help your heart work more efficiently. Each drug is different, so it's important to discuss your particular condition with your doctor to determine which medicine will work best for you.
Surgery. Common procedures include a stent placement, coronary artery bypass surgery and balloon angioplasty. These procedures will help increase the blood flow to your heart, but they don't cure you of the disease. Your doctor will probably prescribe lifestyle changes and/or medication to prevent future complications.
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