Coronary Artery Disease


Coronary artery disease (CAD) is caused by plaque, or fatty deposits, that build up in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and other parts of the body. As the condition progresses, the buildup restricts blood flow to the heart muscle. Over time, this can weaken or damage the heart and cause a heart attack.

CAD is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. Unfortunately, many people don’t know that they have coronary artery problems until they have a heart attack. Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort (angina), which may involve pressure, tightness or fullness
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the jaw, neck, back or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

If you experience these symptoms, take them seriously, and call 911 immediately.

Our goal is to quickly determine what’s causing your symptoms. If blood flow to your heart has been blocked, Mercy heart specialists will work swiftly to reopen your artery and dissolve any blood clots.

Mercy offers you the very best heart and vascular specialists, along with the latest in diagnostics and treatment options. We’re at the ready when every minute counts.

How is Coronary Artery Disease Diagnosed?

Your doctor will do a physical exam and discuss your risk factors. In addition, your doctor may order:

  •  X-ray: to take pictures of your heart and surrounding area
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG): to measure the electrical activity of your heart
  • Stress test: to study the heart while you exercise, usually on a treadmill
  • Cardiac catheterization/angiogram: a flexible tube is threaded through a blood vessel to your heart. This allows your doctor to study the inside of your arteries and use dyes to see the pumping function of your heart.
  • Blood tests: to determine if you have had a heart attack or to assess your risk factors, such as high cholesterol
  • Echocardiogram: an ultrasound using sound waves that bounce off your heart and create moving pictures

How is Coronary Artery Disease Treated?

Treatment focuses on lowering your risk for heart attack and stroke, and managing your symptoms. This might include:

  • Medicines: to lower high cholesterol and high blood pressure, manage angina and lower your risk of having a blood clot.
  • Angioplasty: a catheter is threaded up to a blocked artery and a tiny balloon is inflated, expanding the artery. Often a stent is placed to keep the artery open.
  • Coronary artery bypass graft surgery: to bypass a narrowed or blocked artery using a healthy blood vessel from another part of the body.
  • Cardiac rehabilitation (rehab): treatment, education and support to help you to manage symptoms and make healthy choices.

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