Coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease (CAD) are terms you have probably heard often in connection with heart health and are commonly used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between coronary heart disease and coronary artery disease specifically that CHD is caused by CAD. CAD is categorized as the narrowing or blockage of coronary arteries, which is often linked to atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaques and cholesterol in your arteries.
For your heart to function properly, it needs a steady supply of blood to pump through your body. If you have CAD, the arteries supplying blood to your heart are not able to provide your heart with the blood it needs. This makes your heart work harder to pump the blood it has and limits the oxygen and nutrients passed through your heart. When left untreated, the effects of CAD can lead to a heart attack.
Learning about the controllable risk factors of CAD can help you take steps to prevent the onset of the disease. Below is a list of the most common controllable risk factors:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Unhealthy lifestyle
There are risks of CAD that or not preventable or cannot be treated. It is important to know these risk factors so you can maintain the controllable risks if you fall into any of the following categories:
- Gender: men have an increased risk over women
- Age: as your age increases, so does the risk of CAD
- Genetics: family history of heart disease
You may have already known the risk factors of heart disease, but may not be as familiar with the causes of the disease. A major cause of heart disease is atherosclerosis, as stated above is the buildup of plaque and cholesterol in your arteries. Many of us associate plaque with what dentists scrape off our teeth, but arterial plaque is made up of different substances like: calcium, fat, cholesterol, cellular waste, and fibrin. These substances are circulated with your blood that can eventually build up and clog your arteries.
Plaque buildup can lead to different conditions depending on where the plaque develops and which artery is affected. Common arteries that experience plaque buildup are:
- Coronary arteries: leads blood to or in the heart
- Renal arteries: supplies blood to the kidneys
- Carotid arteries: provides blood to your brain, neck, and face
- Peripheral arteries: supplies blood to the body (i.e. arms and legs)
Blockages in any of the above mentioned arteries can cause issues for your body. It is more common to focus on the arteries that supply blood to your heart or brain, but blockages in the peripheral arteries can cause Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). PAD and CAD are similar in that both are caused by atherosclerosis, share the same risk factors, and can lead to more serious conditions. People with PAD have a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, gangrene, or amputation.
Symptoms of PAD are more common in your legs and include:
- Heaviness or cramping in your legs
- Pain in your legs that disturbs your sleep
- Sores or wounds on your legs and feet that heal slowly or not at all
- Skin color changes
- Poor hair and nail growth on legs and feet
Many people mistake PAD symptoms for normal signs of aging and put off going to the doctor. But knowing the common symptoms of PAD will alert you to the warning signs so you can seek help sooner rather than later.
Arterial disease is a dangerous condition that can affect your body in different ways. February is American Hearth Month which aims to spread awareness about heart disease. Although we don’t treat Coronary Heart Disease, we observe American Heart Month because heart disease is very much connected to arterial disease and PAD. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, going regularly to the doctor, and paying attention to your body will help prevent arterial and heart disease. Through education and talking about our experiences we can beat arterial diseases.
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, are over the age of 50, have a history of smoking or vascular disease in your family, or have diabetes, schedule an arterial check online today!