Coronary heart disease, which many refer to as coronary artery disease, occurs when the blood vessels that lead to the heart begin to narrow. Narrowing typically results from plaque deposits in the vessels, causing a reduction in the amount of oxygen-rich blood that reaches your heart. Eating a healthy diet and increasing your exercise may help prevent or reduce plaque. Knowing the long-term effects of coronary heart disease may help you make important lifestyle changes.
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The narrow vessels prevent adequate blood flow to the heart, and this may lead to angina, a type of chest pain. Your chest may feel tight or have a burning sensation, and the pain may radiate into the left side of your neck or down your left arm. If you have stable angina, you can likely predict the times you will experience chest discomfort, such as after exertion. Unstable angina, however, may appear at any given time, without warning. This type of chest discomfort may indicate the early sign of a heart attack, explains MedlinePlus. If you experience unexplained chest pain or pain that does not ease quickly, you should seek immediate medical attention.
In order for your heart to pump blood throughout the body, the vessels need to provide an adequate amount of blood to fill your heart. If narrow vessels limit the amount of blood reaching the heart, this will gradually damage your heart muscle and result in weak, ineffective pumping actions, a condition called heart failure. Symptoms of heart failure include difficulty breathing, fatigue and edema in your feet, legs and ankles. You may also have a swollen abdomen. If you experience these symptoms, you should contact your health practitioner right away.
Your doctor cannot cure heart failure, but she may offer suggestions to help prevent further damage and improve your heart function. You should eat a balanced, healthy diet, rich in whole grains, lean meat, fruits and vegetables, says the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. As well, your doctor will most likely recommend reducing the amount of salt in your diet since this may increase fluid build-up, which may affect the health of your heart.
Long-term coronary heart disease may lead to a heart attack. This results when the plaque that clogs the vessels leading to the heart completely blocks blood flow or severely limits the amount of blood your heart receives. During a heart attack, the heart will not receive blood, and this will cause permanent damage to the heart, and may result in death for the heart attack victim, reports the American Heart Association. Symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain, as well as pain that radiates into your arm or up your neck, then to your jaw. You may feel short of breath and weak. If you experience any of these symptoms, you, a friend or family member should call 911 immediately.