Arteries are responsible for carrying blood and oxygen to the organs of the body. The organs of the body rely on this blood and oxygen to function properly and stay healthy. When arteries fail to supply organs with enough blood and oxygen, the organs can get damaged and stop functioning properly.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is when the heart’s arteries (called coronary arteries) become blocked, and fail to supply enough blood and oxygen to the heart. Blocking of the arteries occurs when fat, cholesterol, and other material build up on the walls of an artery, leading to the formation of fatty deposits called plaques. The buildup of plaque on arterial walls causes arteries to get narrow. As a result, blood flow to the heart can slow down or stop.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is when arteries become blocked, and fail to supply enough blood and oxygen to other areas and organs of the body.
Blocking of the arteries can lead to serious cardiovascular events such as angina (chest pain), myocardial infarction (heart attack), or stroke.
Angina occurs when one or more of the heart’s arteries (called coronary arteries) are blocked. When this occurs, the amount of blood and oxygen going to the heart is reduced causing pressure or a squeezing pain in the chest.
A myocardial infarction (heart attack) typically occurs when the blood supply to the heart is blocked for an extended period of time causing the heart muscle to become damaged or die.
A stroke occurs when there is an interruption in blood flow to the brain or when blood vessels in the brain rupture. The interruption of blood flow or the rupture of blood vessels causes brain cells to become damaged or die.
Risk factors for CAD and PAD include:
CAD and PAD can be treated and/or prevented by living a healthy lifestyle. Important lifestyle changes include quitting smoking, eating a healthy low fat diet, reducing alcohol intake, and exercising.
In addition to living a healthy lifestyle, some people may need to take medications in order to prevent their CAD and/or PAD from getting worse. Certain medications may help reduce the risk of CAD and PAD by reducing fats and cholesterol in the blood or controlling blood pressure.
In serious cases, a person may need to undergo certain procedures to treat their condition. Possible procedures include percutaneous coronary intervention or coronary artery bypass surgery.