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Symptoms of CAD

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 8/31/2010

Do you have CAD or know someone who does? If so, read on to learn more about coronary artery disease symptoms.

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    Coronary artery disease symptoms will vary from patient to patient. This condition is characterized by the coronary arteries becoming damaged or diseased. Plaques, or cholesterol-containing deposits, are usually responsible for causing this condition. As the plaques grow larger, the arteries become more narrow, resulting in diminished blood flow, or a complete blockage, resulting in a variety of symptoms and complications.

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    Chest Pain

    Some patients describe this symptom as feeling like they have someone standing on their chest. They feel tightness and/or pressure in their chest. Angina, or chest pain, is most often brought on by emotional stress or physical stress. Once the patient stops the stressful activity, this pain often subsides within minutes. Some patients, specifically women, may notice that this pain is sharp or fleeting and occurring in the back, arm, or abdomen.

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    Shortness of Breath

    When the heart is not able to pump an adequate amount of blood throughout the body, shortness of breath can occur. This coronary artery disease symptom can also result in becoming extremely fatigued when exerted.

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    Heart Attack

    A heart attack can result if any of the coronary arteries become completely blocked. If a patient is experiencing a heart attack they can experience crushing chest pressure, arm or shoulder pain, sweating, and shortness of breath. Women are slightly more likely to experience the less common heart attack symptoms, such as back pain, jaw pain, or nausea. In some cases, a heart attack can occur without any noticeable symptoms.

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    Heart Failure

    If areas of the heart are chronically not getting sufficient nutrients and oxygen due to decreased blood flow, or if a heart attack has damaged the heart, heart failure can result. With this condition, the heart is not strong enough to pump the amount of blood the body needs.

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    Abnormal Heart Rhythm

    Also referred to as an arrhythmia, this condition is characterized by the heart not getting adequate blood flow, or when the heart tissue is damaged, resulting in an interference with the electrical impulses of the heart. This causes abnormal heart rhythms.

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    Confined Symptoms

    Certain symptoms are most often confined to specific groups of people. The elderly, women, and diabetes patients are most likely to experience fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.

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    Sudden Death

    Some patients will experience sudden death. This can occur with or without other symptoms. It can happen as they sleep, during activity, at rest, or any other time throughout the day.

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    When to Seek Medical Attention

    When certain symptoms are occurring, it is always a good idea to get immediate medical attention to try and prevent serious problems and death. Those experiencing angina, the symptoms of a heart attack, and/or shortness of breath should seek medical attention.

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    Resources

    MayoClinic.com. (2010). Coronary Artery Disease. Retrieved on August 30, 2010 from MayoClinic.com: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/coronary-artery-disease/DS00064

    MedlinePlus. (2010). Coronary Heart Disease. Retrieved on August 30, 2010 from MedlinePlus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007115.htm