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Sure Signs You Have Coronary Artery Disease, Say Physicians

Doctors explain what to know about Coronary Artery Atherosclerosis.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease," and "About 659,000 people in the United States die from heart disease each year—that's 1 in every 4 deaths." Coronary artery disease, also known as CAD is the most common type of heart disease for Americans and oftentimes the first sign. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who explain what the symptoms of CAD are and what to know about the disease, Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Chest Pain or Discomfort

Asian young woman feeling discomfort as suffering from heartburn holding chest with closed eyes and sitting with folded legs on couch at home.

Dr. Mohammed Imam, MD, Chairman, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Staten Island University Hospital shares, "One of the most common symptoms of CAD is angina or chest pain." Khubchandani added, "it can be chest pain or discomfort in the chest or a sensation of squeezing, tightness, aching, heaviness, or fullness; especially, in times of stress and exertion."  He explained that chest pain is because there is blockage in arteries supplying blood to the heart which stresses the heart muscles as they continue to help pump the blood. Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, Professor of Public Health at New Mexico State University also warns that "these symptoms are often thought of as indicators of indigestion, acidity, and gas, but one needs to be cautious."


Atypical or Other Upper Body Pain/Discomfort

woman holding heart

Imam emphasizes" "CAD tends to be more lethal in women because the symptoms can get missed. Women experience more atypical symptoms." Dr. Khubchandani agrees that there could be many non-specific pain or discomfort type symptoms; "the notion that the heart is on the left side and all pain/discomfort symptoms will occur on the left side in the chest may not always hold true," he added. The discomfort and pain may spread to shoulder, abdomen, jaw, arms, back, and neck.


Shortness of Breath/ Difficulty Breathing

Young woman suffering from breathing problem near window indoors.

"Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing along with the other symptoms may indicate severe burden on heart and lungs," Dr. Khubchandani explains. "But, sometimes, breathing difficulties may happen without chest discomfort in individuals with coronary artery disease. Severe breathing difficulty or shortening of breath should prompt a call for emergency help as it can also indicate other diseases and needs urgent attention."


Nausea, Vomiting, or Dizziness

Woman Suffering From Nausea

Dr. Khubchandani states,"While these symptoms are nonspecific to CAD, they are very common and frequently occur with the other symptoms of CAD. People may feel sick to stomach or light headed. However, just like other routine problems (e.g. indigestion, food-borne illness, acidity, etc.), people may not seek emergency care." Dr. Khubchandani added, "while these are common symptoms of many diseases, they need attention when they occur with chest pain or difficulty breathing. That would be a key differentiation between CAD versus other problems like indigestion."

Imam suggests "If one has the above symptoms, even if they are mild, and has risk factors, they should seek advice from their physicians and not try to procrastinate."


Acute and Severe Warning Signs

cardiac disease risk

Dr. Khubchandani says "while the aforementioned signs may indicate CAD or impending severe problems, some symptoms should be a trigger for an emergency call". Palpitations, passing out, inability to breath, cold sweats, feeling of impending doom, falls, paralysis, loss of sensation in body parts, trouble seeing and walking, severe confusion and headache etc. are symptoms to watch out for. They may be signs for a heart attack or stroke, both of them are outcomes of cardiovascular atherosclerosis."

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What Causes CAD?

heart disease

Dr. Imam says, "CAD is blockage of the arteries of the heart caused by fatty deposits compromising blood supply to the heart muscle."


Who is at Risk and Why?

Doctor with glucometer and insulin pen device talking to male patient at medical office in hospital.

Dr. Imam states there are many risk factors, including, but not limited to "diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and family history of heart disease."

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How Can You Help Prevent CAD?

high blood pressure

According to Dr. Imam, "Prevention is primarily by following a heart-healthy lifestyle. This means regular exercise, eating in moderation, weight control, smoking cessation, and regular physicals to keep risk factors like diabetes and high blood pressure under control. Family history of CAD is somewhat a risk factor that in itself cannot be altered but by modifying other risks one can keep CAD at bay." Imam added, "I always tell my patients your genes only load the gun but your habits pull the trigger."


What Foods Should You Avoid With CAD?


Imam says people need to "eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, etc."

Dr. Khubchandani explains, "We can summarize all the risk factors to avoid by labeling them as the risky S. "To prevent CAD and minimize its risk, people should avoid Starch, Sugar, Salt, Spirits, Saturated fat, Smoking, Stress, Sleep disruption, Sedentary lifestyles, and Social isolation," he added. More than half a million people die of cardiovascular diseases and these lifestyle changes are related to lower risk of such morbidity and mortality related to heart and vascular system."


How Does CAD Affect Overall Health and Daily Life?

Healthcare worker at home visit

Once a person has been diagnosed with heart disease, it affects all aspects of life including social, personal, professional, emotional, and financial.  Therefore, it is key to prevent this disease. Dr. Khubchandani says "however, in many people, there will be no symptoms or signs of coronary artery atherosclerosis at younger ages- the symptoms start appearing as a person gets older". Overall health and quality of life depend on the complications of CAA (e.g. ranging from angina to heart attack to heart failure). These complications may start with or are accompanied by the signs and symptoms below."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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