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What is Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease?

Arteriosclerotic heart disease, also diagnosed as ischemic heart disease and coronary heart disease, is a disease of the heart caused by the diminution of blood supply to the heart muscle due to narrowing of the cavity of one or both coronary arteries due to the accumulation of fatty material on the inner lining of the arterial wall.

Coronary artery disease; Arteriosclerotic heart disease; CHD; CAD

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. CHD is also called coronary artery disease.

Coronary heart disease is usually caused by a condition called atherosclerosis, which occurs when fatty material and a substance called plaque build up on the walls of your arteries. This causes them to get narrow. As the coronary arteries narrow, blood flow to the heart can slow down or stop. This can cause chest pain (stable angina), shortness of breath, heart attack, and other symptoms.

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women.

Many things increase your risk for heart disease:

Increased levels of a chemical called homocysteine, an amino acid, are also linked to an increased risk of a heart attack.

Symptoms of Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease

Symptoms may be very noticeable, but sometimes you can have the disease and not have any symptoms.

Chest pain or discomfort (angina) is the most common symptom. You feel this pain when the heart is not getting enough blood or oxygen. How bad the pain is varies from person to person.

It may feel heavy or like someone is squeezing your heart. You feel it under your breast bone (sternum), but also in your neck, arms, stomach, or upper back.
The pain usually occurs with activity or emotion, and goes away with rest or a medicine called nitroglycerin.
Other symptoms include shortness of breath and fatigue with activity (exertion).
See: Heart failure for symptoms of heart failure

Exams and Tests for Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease

Many tests help diagnose CHD. Usually, your doctor will order more than one test before making a definite diagnosis.

Tests may include:

Treatment for Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease

You may be asked to take one or more medicines to treat blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol levels. Follow your doctor's directions closely to help prevent coronary artery disease from getting worse. Goals for treating these conditions in those who have coronary artery disease are:

Treatment depends on your symptoms and how severe the disease is. Your doctor may give you one or more medicines to treat CHD, including:

Procedures and surgeries used to treat CHD include:

Lifestyle changes are very important. Your doctor may tell you to:

Outlook / Prognosis for Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease

Everyone recovers differently. Some people can maintain a healthy life by changing their diet, stopping smoking, and taking medications exactly as the doctor prescribes. Others may need medical procedures such as angioplasty or surgery.

Although everyone is different, early detection of CHD generally results in a better outcome.

Possible Complications of Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If you have any of the risk factors for CHD, contact your doctor to discuss prevention and possible treatment.

Immediately contact your health care provider, call the local emergency number (such as 911), or go to the emergency room if you have:

See your health care provider regularly.

Tips for preventing CHD or lowering your risk of the disease:

If you have one or more risk factors for coronary heart disease, talk to your doctor about possibly taking an aspirin a day to help prevent a heart attack or stroke. You may be prescribed low-dose aspirin therapy if the benefit is likely to outweigh the risk of gastrointestinal side effects.

New guidelines no longer recommend hormone replacement therapy, vitamins E or C, antioxidants, or folic acid to prevent heart disease. The use of hormone replacement therapy in women who are close to menopause or who have finished menopause is controversial at this time.