Coronary Heart Disease vs. Coronary Artery Disease – Are They Different?
The terms coronary heart disease and coronary artery disease are often used interchangeably within the medical profession.
When a person has a build-up of plaque in his/her heart’s arteries, this is known as coronary heart disease. Plaque presents as a sticky, yellow substance that is made of fatty substances such as cholesterol, calcium and waste products from one’s cells. The plaque leads to the narrowing and clogging of arteries, which slows down the flow of blood.
This plaque build-up often leads to a heart attack, therefore it’s important to have an AED in close proximity if and when this happens.
Another way to look at it – coronary heart disease is actually the result of coronary artery disease, otherwise known as CAD.
What are the Coronary Arteries?
Simply put, the coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply blood to a person’s heart. There are four major coronary arteries in the body: right coronary artery, left main coronary, left anterior descending and left circumflex artery. When a blockage occurs in any of these four arteries, this can lead to angina, heart disease, heart attacks and heart failure. See image for details.
What is Coronary Artery Disease?
According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common form of heart disease. When plaque starts to grow within the walls of the coronary arteries, blood flow to the heart’s muscle is limited, leading to coronary artery disease. This limited flow of blood is called ischemia and may be chronic, causing the coronary artery to narrow over time thus limiting the blood supply to part of the muscle. The acute form is a result of a sudden rupture of a plaque and formation of a thrombus or blood clot.
Coronary artery disease leads to the blood vessels becoming damaged or diseased, which eventually causes the vessels to constrict or become stiff and even blocked. This process is typically called hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis.
Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease
When a person is suffering from coronary heart disease, he/she can experience the following:
- Chest pain (angina);
- Heart attack; or
- Cardiac arrest (stopping of the heart).
The Different Types of Coronary Artery Disease
There are three different types of coronary artery disease:
- Obstructive CAD – this occurs when the blood vessels become significantly constricted or blocked.
- Non-obstructive CAD – this occurs when the blood vessels have constricted due to them branching off to smaller vessels or because the heart muscle is squeezing too tightly on the vessels.
- Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) – SCAD is the tearing of blood vessels in the heart, which reduces or blocks blood flow to the heart causing damage to the muscles and affecting the heart’s rhythm.
What are the Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease?
- High LDL cholesterol;
- Low LDL cholesterol;
- High blood pressure;
- Family history of heart disease;
- Post-menopausal in women;
- Being older than 45 years old for men;
- Depression; and
To prevent coronary artery disease, and ultimately heart disease, it’s important to adopt a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating a balanced diet and incorporating daily exercise. Coronary artery disease can be prevented, but early intervention is key.