Living with coronary disease: frequently asked questions
My physician suspects that I might have coronary artery disease. He performed a physical exam, checked my blood pressure, and listened to my heart. We started discussing my symptoms, family history, diet, activity level, and other medical conditions. I’m prescribed a blood test, but what other tests can I expect?
Depending on your condition, you could be prescribed one or more of the following tests: an electrocardiogram, a stress test, an echocardiogram, blood tests, a chest X-ray, or a coronary angiography, among others.1
Can coronary artery disease be prevented or avoided?
Only to some extent, for it can’t be completely prevented or avoided. Still, the early identification of risk factors can help reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, thanks to lifestyle changes: smoking cessation, a healthy, balanced diet, regular physical activities. For other possible measures, please seek a medical advice.2
I have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, and I can’t stop thinking about it. What can I do to feel better?
Do not hesitate to talk with your health care team about how you feel. Your doctor may recommend you talk to a professional counselor. You could be also advised to join a patient support group, so you can find out how other people have coped with their symptoms. Don’t forget also to seek support from family and friends.3
I have been told that coronary artery disease can lead to heart attack. What are the warning signs?
The signs and symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Nausea, vomiting, light-headedness or fainting, or breaking out in a cold sweat. These symptoms of a heart attack are more common in women.
- Prolonged or severe chest pain or discomfort not relieved by rest or nitroglycerin. This involves uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center or left side of the chest that can be mild or strong. This pain or discomfort often lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
- Shortness of breath. This may accompany chest discomfort or happen before it.
- Upper body discomfort. This can be felt in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or upper part of the stomach.3
What should I do in case of a heart attack?
If you think that you are or someone else is having a heart attack, call immediately your local emergency number. Every minute matters.3
I have been told about surgery in coronary artery disease. Is it really an option?
Yes, in more severe cases of coronary artery disease, procedures and surgery can be used. Heart surgery known as coronary artery bypass grafting aims at improving blood flow to the heart by using normal arteries and veins to bypass the blocked arteries. Another way to improve the blood flow relies on a nonsurgical procedure known as a percutaneous coronary intervention (or coronary angioplasty), which involves the insertion of a catheter tube to open coronary arteries narrowed or blocked by the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque. A small mesh tube called a stent is usually implanted after PCI to prevent the artery from narrowing again.3,4
- NHS. Coronary heart disease – Diagnosis. 2017. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronary-heart-disease/diagnosis/ Accessed on 08 July 2019.
- WHO. What can I do to avoid a heart attack or a stroke. 2015. Available at https://www.who.int/features/qa/27/en/ Accessed on 08 July 2019.
- National Institute of Health – National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Ischemic Heart Disease. Available at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/ischemic-heart-disease Accessed on 08 July 2019.
- National Institute of Health – National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) – Percutaneous Coronary Intervention. Available at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/percutaneous-coronary-intervention Accessed on 08 July 2019.