How do I know if I have Coronary Artery Disease?

For many there are no signs and symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease until one day they have a heart attack. If you think you are at risk the best thing to do is see your doctor. The risk factors for Coronary Artery Disease are:

1) Overweight: those who carry their weight in their mid-section are at an even higher risk of heart disease.

2) Lack of Exercise

3) Smoking tobacco products

4) High levels of continuous stress

5) Diabetes

6) Hypertension

7) High lipid profile or high cholesterol levels

8) Age 65 or older

9) Male gender

10) Family history of heart disease

11) Menopause

Your doctor will ask you questions about any chest discomfort that you may be experiencing. They will want to know what you are doing when the chest pain starts and what it feels like. They will want words that describe the pain such as crushing, sharp, stabbing, dull, etc. They will also want to know where the pain is and if it radiates (travels) to other areas. Common areas of pain are the chest, the jaw, pain moving down the left arm or around to the back. Next tell your doctor how the pain is relieved. Do you take medications, does it go away with rest or do you feel the chest pain constantly.

Your doctor will also ask you about your past medical history and your close family history. This means mom, dad, your brothers and sisters, your grandparents and your parents' brothers and sisters if you don't have information on your grandparents. They especially want to know about close family members who were diagnosed with coronary artery disease before the age of 50.

The doctor will take your blood pressure, listen to your heart and lungs, check your extremities (arms and legs) for impaired circulation and take some basic blood tests that include cholesterol, triglyceride and lipid levels. The doctor should also get a 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG). Your doctor will then determine how many risk factors you are positive for and proceed from there. If they believe you are a high risk or you have pain that is unrelieved they may do some more testing such as stress tests and echocardiograms. If these are positive they will move on to more invasive testing such as a coronary angiogram to determine the extent of the blockage to the arteries.

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