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Southwest San Antonio Coronary Artery Disease Care

Coronary artery disease – often referred to simply as “heart disease” – is one of the most common causes of heart disease in the United States. This condition kills more than 385,000 adults in the U.S. per year. Here in San Antonio, advanced care for coronary artery disease is available through the cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, and other health professionals at Southwest General Hospital. If you’re looking for information about coronary artery disease treatment in San Antonio, you can use this page as a resource for information about the disease, its symptoms, risk factors, and more.

Cause of Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease is the result of plaque buildup in the arteries – a condition known as atherosclerosis. Plaque is made up of fat, fibrin, calcium, cholesterol, and cellular waste. As plaque accumulates in the arterial walls, the passageway for blood narrows. Over time, the plaque may break free, which allows blood clots to form on its surface. These clots, in turn, can cause significant blockages in the arteries, preventing blood from reaching the heart. A heart attack or stroke may result.

Coronary Artery Disease Risk Factors

Risk factors for coronary artery disease may include:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Smoking
  • Being insulin resistant
  • Having diabetes
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of exercise
  • Eating an unhealthy diet
  • Having metabolic syndrome (a group of risk factors)
  • Getting older
  • Having a family history of heart disease

If you’re at risk for coronary artery disease, you may wish to schedule a coronary calcium screening at Southwest General Hospital. This basic noninvasive test, offered by interventional radiologists at the hospital, screens for calcium deposits in the coronary arteries using computed tomography. The actual imaging takes just a few seconds and the entire process lasts just 10-15 minutes. However, a coronary calcium scan could drastically change your outlook if atherosclerosis is detected and managed early on before coronary artery disease has the chance to progress.

Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease

If you have any of the above risk factors, then you should familiarize yourself with the disease’s symptoms. It’s important to note, however, that not all patients with coronary artery disease will experience these symptoms. Some patients may have no noticeable symptoms whatsoever. The top four symptoms of coronary artery blockage include:

  • Angina, which is a type of pain or tightness in the chest. Angina is typically caused by physical or emotional stress triggers. It may last for a few minutes and then subside after the stress has passed. Your cardiologist may give you nitroglycerin spray or tablets to relieve sudden angina.
  • Shortness of breath is another common symptom. You may have difficulty catching your breath, even when at rest or going about your daily routine.
  • Fatigue is also common in patients with coronary artery disease because the heart does not get enough blood.
  • Heart attack is obviously the most severe symptom of coronary artery disease. Every year, approximately 715,000 Americans suffer a heart attack, according to the Center for Disease Control. Many heart attacks are caused by coronary artery disease.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms (and/or have any of the risk factors described above), then your physician may recommend you get screened for coronary artery disease. You can learn more about the screening and diagnostic tests available at Southwest General Hospital below.

Diagnosing Coronary Artery Disease

There are many imaging procedures, noninvasive tests, and interventional therapies for diagnosing coronary artery disease. These may include:

  • Chest X-Ray
  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG)
  • Cardiac Catheterization
  • Lab Blood Testing
  • Nuclear Cardiology (e.g. Tomography)
  • Treadmill / Stress Testing

Learn more about these tests here.

Coronary Artery Disease: Prevention & Management

If your cardiologist finds that you have coronary artery disease – or have a high risk for developing the disease – then he or she may recommend the following prevention and management techniques.

  • Get regular screenings for heart disease.
  • Become familiar with the symptoms of the disease (see above).
  • Learn about your family history of heart disease.
  • Learn to manage your cholesterol.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Lower your blood pressure.
  • Exercise regularly and eat well.
  • If you’re overweight, drop down to a healthy BMI range.
  • Learn to manage stress.

Coronary Artery Disease: Treatment Options

In many patients, coronary artery disease may be treated with medication. Common drugs for managing heart disease may include:

  • Aspirin (for thinning the blood and preventing clot formation)
  • Cholesterol-lowering medication
  • Beta blockers (for lowering blood pressure and slowing heart rate)
  • ACE inhibitors (also for lowering blood pressure)
  • Nitroglycerin tablets/spray (for treating angina and dilating coronary arteries)
  • Calcium channel blockers (for relaxing the muscles around the coronary arteries)

Some patients may also benefit from a catheter-based or surgical procedure that opens the arteries. At Southwest General Hospital, available procedures may include:

  • Balloon Angioplasty and Stent Placement: a small balloon is inserted into the coronary artery via catheter, and inflated, pressing plaque against the arterial walls, and restoring blood flow. A stent may be placed, as well, in order to keep the artery from re-narrowing.
  • Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG): In this procedure, a blood vessel from the leg or chest wall is surgically removed and re-attached to the coronary artery to route blood around the blockage. This procedure may be done as an “open heart” procedure or in a minimally invasive fashion (“MIDCAB” – minimally invasive direct coronary artery bypass surgery).

Other treatment options may be available.

San Antonio Heart Care in Your Neighborhood

For more information about coronary artery disease and heart care in San Antonio, call Southwest General Hospital at 1-877-215-WELL. If you’re at risk for coronary artery disease, remember to consider getting a coronary calcium screening. Schedule yours today.

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