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Back in the day, a heart attack meant almost imminent death. However, thanks to the evolution of medicine, you can minimize the damage it causes if you spot the signs and get treatment for a heart attack.

Coronary artery disease is a medical condition characterized by reduced blood circulation within the arteries that supply the heart. Because of fatty deposits and plaque build-up, blood is less able to flow freely inside the arteries, causing damage to the heart’s muscle tissue as well as the inner lining of the arteries.

People with coronary artery disease are likely to develop a series of heart-related complications which can cause permanent damage, and sometimes even be fatal.

1. Arrhythmia

The human heart is regulated by electrical impulses, which dictate the beats and the rhythm. When these electrical impulses don’t work properly, the heart beats at an abnormal rhythm, and this condition is called arrhythmia.

The heart is divided into four chambers, two of which are located on the upper side of the heart, and the other two on the lower side. These chambers are grouped in pairs of two: one upper and one lower chamber. Each of these halves creates a pump, meaning that there’s a pump on either side of your heart. When the heart beats at a normal pace, you have electrical impulses passing through a pathway to each of the pumps. Any interruptions in these pathways cause the heart to start beating abnormally.

Arrhythmia can cause the heart to beat too slowly (bradycardia), too fast (tachycardia), too erratically (fibrillation), or too early (premature contraction). Normally, the heart of a resting person beats about 60 to 80 times per minute. The rhythm is usually predictable, and the force is steady and consistent.

People with coronary artery disease are quite likely to develop atrial fibrillation, a form of arrhythmia that affects the heart’s top chambers. When this occurs, your heart is no longer efficient in pumping blood out of these chambers and into the lower parts of your hearts or other parts of your body. When this condition is left untreated, it can lead to heart failure or ischemic stroke.

2. Angina

Angina is the medical term used to describe chest pain. This pain normally arises from the fact that your heart isn’t receiving enough blood (ischemia), which is one of the major consequences of coronary artery disease.

Different people will experience this chest pain in different ways: from burning, squeezing, aching, tightness, heaviness, to the feeling that something is putting pressure on the chest. Some people claim that angina sometimes spreads, leaving them with pain in the shoulders, arms, neck, back, or jaw.

Angina can sometimes occur when you’re performing a more demanding activity, such as exercising, and your body requires additional oxygen. However, it’s important for you to remember that coronary artery disease-induced ischemia doesn’t always show any symptoms. This means that if you’re experiencing chest pain, you could already be on the verge of a fatal heart problem, such as a heart attack. Never neglect chest pain and go see a doctor immediately.

3. Heart failure

Heart failure is the heart’s inability to pump the blood needed for the body to function properly. Since the heart is the mechanism that keeps the other organs functioning, any heart problems can indirectly cause issues with other organs as well. As the heart fails to pump blood, it tries to compensate by pumping faster, thus increasing its output. The heart also stretches as a response to failure, so that it can contract more in an attempt to keep up with the blood pumping demand.

Because the heart turns to these methods of compensation, some people may be unaware of the heart problems they’re having until later on in life. But even if you’re not aware of this, the heart’s health slowly declines, and that’s why it’s important to have regular medical check-ups.

While a lot of different things can cause heart failure, coronary artery disease is the primary culprit. When this happens, the arteries become narrow and stiff, which means that the heart doesn’t receive enough blood and oxygen to function. 

People who experience heart failure are more likely to have fluid build-up in their lungs, as well as have their other organs affected in the process: the abdomen or limbs can become swollen. Heart failure can occur on either side of the heart, but it typically does on the left side.

4. Heart attack

In time, the cholesterol build-up on the artery walls can rupture, leading to the formation of blood clots. When blood clots are inside the arteries, they basically interrupt the blood supply to the heart. When this happens, you are at risk of a heart attack.

Back in the day, a heart attack meant almost imminent death. However, thanks to the evolution of medicine, the faster you spot and get treatment for a heart attack, the more you can minimize the damage it causes. Typically, the symptoms of a heart attack include pain in the chest, but which can spread to other areas, such as the back, neck, or the arms; shortness of breath, pain in the abdomen, dizziness, fatigue, or cold sweat.

Not everyone experiences these symptoms, and those who do can feel different levels of pain. Heart attacks can show sudden signs, but there are cases where people have symptoms even weeks in advance. In general, chest pain is the first sign that you are at risk for a heart attack because this pain is a cause of reduced blood flow to the heart.


Keeping your eyes open can not only save your life, but it can also help you notice signs of a heart attack in other people, and you can save their lives as well. If you or someone around you is having a suspected heart attack, do not hesitate to call 911 immediately.

Getting medical assistance early in case of a heart problem can help minimize damage in the longer run. If you notice that someone isn’t breathing, apply CPR right after calling the emergency services. This can help keep their blood flowing until they can get medical assistance.

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