Coronary artery disease

The heart is the hardest working muscle in the body - beating, on average, 100 000 times per day and pumping about 25 litres of blood per minute! To handle this enormous amount of work, the heart muscle requires a continuous supply of oxygen and other nutrients from the blood. To get enough nourishment, the heart muscle has its own circulation, the right and left coronary arteries. These arteries are located on the outside of your heart muscle much like the blood vessels on your hand.

Angina (chest pain)

Angina (chest pain) occurs because a coronary artery has narrowed. Pain will go away with rest or the use of nitro-glycerine, although different medicines are used for different patients. A minority of patients may not respond adequately to medical treatment (or the avoidance of risk factors). In such cases you will be admitted to the cardiac catheterisation laboratory for the specialised X-rays that need to be taken. These X-rays will assist in determining whether you should undergo treatment or a revascularisation procedure which will aid in improving blood supply to the heart muscle.

One of the following procedures may, for example, be used:

  • Balloon angioplasty,
  • Coronary artery bypass surgery, or
  • Continued medical treatment.

Avoiding risk factors remains essential to prevent progression of the disease.

Risk factors

  • Male sex
  • Age
  • Family history
  • High blood cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Sugar diabetes
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Emotional stress
  • Oral contraceptives - mainly in females over 35 years who also smoke.

Having one or more unavoidable risk factors makes it all the more important to attend strictly to the modifiable risk factors.