Coronary heart disease has many different names, including coronary artery disease, atherosclerotic heart disease, and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. It is most commonly referred to as heart disease. Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease and cause of heart attacks. Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world since 2012 and affects more than 13 million Americans. This disease is caused by the build up of cholesterol containing deposits (plaque) along the inner walls of the arteries of the heart which causes a reduction in blood flow to the heart. This build up of plaque in the arteries is called atherosclerosis.
From very early on in life, plaque can start to deposit in the walls of your blood vessels. Over the years, the plaque can begin to build up. This build up can cause the blood vessel to become inflamed, which can raise the risk of blood clots or heart attack. The plaque will also release chemicals that can trap other substances that travel through your bloodstream. Over time, the coronary artery may develop new blood vessels to continue to supply the heart with blood. These new blood vessels may not be able to supply enough blood to the heart, which can cause increase exertion or stress on the heart.
The most common symptom of coronary artery disease is chest pain, or angina. Angina has been described as a burning, aching, numb, full, squeezing, pressure, heaviness, or painful feeling. Some people can mistake angina for indigestion or heartburn. The pain can be triggered by emotional or physical stress and typically goes away within minutes after the stressful activity. Other symptoms that can occur with coronary artery disease include:
- Shortness of breath - This happens if your heart is not pumping enough blood for your body. This may come with extreme fatigue during exertion.
- Palpitations - Irregular heart beats, skipped beats
- Weakness or dizziness
- Faster heartbeat - This can be experienced even during periods of rest.