Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is a narrowing of the arteries that supply blood directly to the heart muscle.
How is Coronary Artery DiseaseDiagnosed?
You will have a chest x-ray to find more about the size and shape of the heart. An EKG will be done to record the electrical activity of your heart.
Blood tests are done to check your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. You may have a urinalysis done to check the condition of your kidneys.
An exercise stress test is done to find out how your heart responds to activity. You will be connected to an EKG machine and walk on a treadmill. If you are having a Nuclear Stress Test, you will have a radioisotope injected into a vein in your arm. Pictures will be made of your heart right after exercise and a few hours later. If you are not able to walk on a treadmill, your heart rate can be increased with medication.
The most precise way to check heart function- structure is through a cardiac cath. If a cardiac cath is planned for you, you will be given information and a complete explanation of the procedure.
How is Coronary Artery Disease Treated?
Beta Blockers for Your Heart
Beta blockers are used for long term treatment of CAD. They prevent angina by decreasing the workload on the heart. Follow the instructions carefully about when to take your beta blocker. Never stop taking a beta blocker abruptly. The medication should be tapered off over several days, as prescribed to prevent angina, hypertension, arrhythmias, or heart attack.
Notify your doctor if you notice reactions such as shortness of breath, wheezing, dizziness, slow pulse rate or swelling.
If you are diabetic, it’s important to test your blood sugar regularly. Beta blockers can hide the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar and reduce your body’s ability to handle sugars. You may need a change in your diabetic medication if you are taking a beta blocker.
Nitrates for Your Heart
Nitrates have been used for many years for the treatment of CAD and prevention of angina. They work directly on the smooth muscle of the veins and arteries to reduce the amount of narrowing.
Do not drink alcohol if you are taking nitrates. NEVER stop taking your nitrates without consulting your doctor. If you notice low blood pressure symptoms: fatigue, dizziness, rapid heart beat: call your doctor. Some people have headaches when they first begin taking nitrates. If you do, try relieving the discomfort with a mild pain reliever, such as Tylenol. The headaches usually disappear after a few days. Notify your doctor if you continue to have angina after taking your medication. Go to the nearest emergency room if your angina is not relieved by rest and/or three nitroglycerin tablets taken five minutes apart.
Aspirin for Your Heart
Blood clots in the coronary arteries may cause a heart attack. A clot begins to form with the clumping of platelets. Aspirin causes the platelets to lose their stickiness and helps prevent clumping together to form a clot. Your physician may prescribe aspirin for you. It is important that you take your prescribed dosage daily. Take your dosage every day and at the same time every day to produce the desired effect on your blood.
If you are known to react badly to aspirin, if you have gastric ulcers, or are considered to be at risk for developing ulcers, you should consult your physician. If you have stomach upset while taking aspirin, try taking it with meals or an antacid. You may also take a buffered aspirin product like Bufferin or Ascriptin.