Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary Heart Disease: causes and consequences

Coronary heart disease is a serious condition. Deposits in the coronary arteries can mean that too little oxygen is supplied to the heart muscle. A potential consequence: Heart attack. But there are ways to prevent these deposits from forming in the first place.

What is coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease, or CHD for short, is a narrowing of the coronary arteries. "Coronary" comes from the Latin "corona" for crown or wreath and describes how the coronary vessels wrap around the heart.

These specialised vessels supply the heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood, which is crucial for ensuring its ability to pump blood. In CHD, these vessels are narrowed by deposits of fat and calcium called plaques.

The formation of plaques is favoured by

  • genetic factors,
  • smoking,
  • a diet that is not heart-healthy
  • and a lack of exercise.

In the case of CHD, the heart muscle is not supplied with enough oxygen through the narrowed coronary arteries. This has a more drastic effect in the heart than in other muscles because there are no supplemental vessels in the heart. Each coronary vessel supplies a specific part of the heart, which is why they are also called terminal arteries. If a vessel fails, this can lead to insufficient blood supply and death of the adjacent part of the heart muscle.

Symptoms of coronary heart disease do not appear until later

Genetic factors as well as an unhealthy lifestyle can accelerate plaque build-up.

This causes the coronary arteries to become increasingly narrowed. In most cases, symptoms only appear when there is advanced narrowing, due to a lack of oxygen reaching the heart muscle.

These symptoms usually come and go in bouts when the heart muscle needs a lot of oxygen during physical exercise or emotional stress.

The chest pain may radiate to the neck or arms, along with a feeling of tightness in the chest. The Latin term for tightness in the chest is angina pectoris.

How do the symptoms develop as the disease progresses?

As the CHD progresses, the intermittent symptoms can become permanent pain. If coronary heart disease is left untreated, it can lead to secondary diseases and the calcium and fat deposits in the vessels become more and more pronounced. The brittle material can come loose, for example in the case of local inflammation. This can result in a heart attack.

Coronary heart disease damages the heart muscle even before symptoms appear

At one time it was assumed that heart muscle tissue only dies once a heart attack occurs. However, it is now known that the muscle is already damaged by partial occlusion of the coronary arteries. A heart-healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of CHD. If you have chest pain, you should always consult a doctor to rule out CHD.

How is coronary heart disease treated?

Coronary heart disease is a serious condition. Nevertheless, with good medical care and by adjusting some of your habits, a long life expectancy and good quality of life can be achieved. It is important that you discuss your lifestyle and the condition of your heart muscle with your doctor and draw up a treatment plan together.