Coronary Heart Disease Symptoms

Coronary heart disease or CHD is the narrowing of the blood vessels that supply oxygen and blood to the heart. It is also termed coronary artery disease. CHD is caused due to a condition called atherosclerosis. When fatty material and plaque build up on the walls of the arteries, atherosclerosis occurs. This leads to the coronary arteries getting narrow. As a result, blood flow to the heart slows down and sometimes even stops. These result in the symptoms of chest pain or angina, heart attack, shortness of breath and other problems. CHD is one of the leading causes of death the world over.

More than women, men above the age of 40 are more prone to CHD. There are many reasons that can increase the risk for CHD. Heredity is one of common causes for the disease. Among the other factors are diabetes, high blood pressure, high LDL "bad" cholesterol, low HDL "good" cholesterol, menopause, not getting enough exercise or physical activity, obesity and smoking.

Though the symptoms of CHD are highly noticeable, there are times when no proper symptoms are visible and yet one has the disease. Angina or pain and discomfort in the chest are the most common symptom. This pain occurs when the heart does not get enough blood or oxygen. The chest pain can be of two types: atypical and typical. Atypical chest pain is sharp and keep coming and going. This pain is felt in the left chest, abdomen, back or arm. Since this pain is not related to any physical activity, rest does not provide any relief. Nor do the medicine called nitroglycerin.

When one starts to feel heavy as if one is being squeezed, it is a typical chest pain. The pain is felt under the breast bone or sternum. This type of pain occurs after some activity or high levels of emotion. Rest and nitroglycerin help to provide comfort. Those having the typical chest pain are more at risk of having CHD than those with atypical chest pain.

Among the other symptoms of CHD are: shortness of breath, heart attack and fatigue with activity or exertion. A heart attack can often be the first sign of CHD. There are many tests that help to diagnose CHD. A doctor, usually, does more than one tests before diagnosing CHD.

Among the tests are: coronary angiography or arteriography, electrocardiogram or ECG, Electron-beam computed tomography or EBCT which looks for calcium in the artery linings, exercise stress test, echocardiogram, magnetic resonance angiography and nuclear scan. The more the calcium deposits in the artery linings, the more the chances of developing CHD.

The treatment of CHD depends on the symptoms and the severity of the disease. If the CHD does not have any of the symptoms, one can be treated with medicines or through angioplasty with stenting. Among the medications that are used to treat CHD are: ACE inhibitors to lower blood pressure; blood thinners to reduce the risk of blood clots; beta-blockers to lower heart rate and blood pressure; calcium channel blockers to relax arteries; diuretics to lower blood pressure; and nitrates to stop chest pain and improve blood supply to the heart.