Coronary artery disease occurs when plaque (blood fat, cholesterol and other substances) builds up in the coronary arteries and reduces the blood flow to the heart. This buildup, called atherosclerosis, narrows the arteries and results in less blood being delivered to the heart. Sometimes blood clots develop and further block the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack
High cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, age and family history are risk factors for coronary artery disease. In addition, postmenopausal women, women who have undergone early menopause, or women with a history of metabolic syndrome, or polycystic ovarian disease may be at a higher risk for developing heart disease.
The most common symptom of coronary artery disease is chest discomfort. The chest pain that occurs as a result of inadequate blood flow to the heart muscle (a result of blockages in the arteries of the heart) is called angina. Patients often describe angina as chest pressure, tightness, squeezing or heaviness, but it can sometimes feel like a burning chest pain or pain in the upper body, arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach. Some patients only show signs of coronary artery disease when they are having an actual heart attack.
Electrocardiograms, exercise stress tests and cardiac catheterizations, are used to diagnose coronary artery disease. Other tests that may be used include EBCT (electron beam computed tomography) and CT coronary angiography. Treatment options include lifestyle modifications, medications and procedures, such as angioplasty/stenting and cardiac surgery.
To make an appointment with a Women’s Heart NY physician, please call
(877) WOMEN-00/(877) 966-3600.