Southeastern Cardiovascular Consultants
Some 7 million Americans suffer from coronary heart disease (CHD) the most common form of heart disease. This type of heart disease is caused by a narrowing of the coronary arteries that feed the heart.
CHD is the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S. Each year, more than 500,000 Americans die of heart attacks caused by CHD.
Many of these deaths could be prevented because CHD is related to certain aspects of lifestyle. Risk factors for CHD include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity—all of which can be controlled. Although medical treatments for heart disease have come a long way, controlling risk factors remains the key to preventing illness and death from CHD.
Who is at risk for CHD?
Risk factors are conditions that increase your risk of developing heart disease. Some can be changed and some cannot. Although these factors each increase the risk of CHD, they do not describe all the causes of coronary heart disease; even with none of these risk factors, you might still develop CHD.
High blood pressure
High blood cholesterol
Heredity (family history of CHD)
*Although stress may be a risk factor for CHD, scientists still do not know exactly how stress might be involved in heart disease.
What is CHD?
Like any muscle, the heart needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients that are carried to it by the blood in the coronary arteries. When the coronary arteries become narrowed or clogged and cannot supply enough blood to the heart, the result is CHD.
What are the symptoms of CHD?
Chest pain (angina) or shortness of breath may be the earliest signs of CHD. A person may feel heaviness, tightness, pain, burning, pressure, or squeezing, usually behind the breastbone but sometimes also in the arms, neck, or jaws. These signs usually bring the patient to a doctor for the first time. Nevertheless, some people have heart attacks without ever having any of these symptoms.
It is important to know that there is a wide range of severity for CHD. Some people have no symptoms at all, some have mild intermittent chest pain, and some have more pronounced and steady pain. Still others have CHD that is severe enough to make normal everyday activities difficult.
How is CHD treated?
CHD is treated in a number of ways, depending on the seriousness of the disease. For many people, CHD is managed with lifestyle changes and medications. Others with severe CHD may need surgery. In that case, once CHD develops, it requires lifelong management.