A coronary artery must be narrowed to less than 30% of its original size before there is a serious reduction in the blood flow to the heart muscle served by that vessel. Generally, about 5% of the total cardiac output of blood goes through the coronary arteries; thus, there is adequate coronary blood flow to meet normal demands at rest even if the vessels are 70% to 90% occluded. If the coronary arteries are seriously blocked, however, blood flow may not be adequate for any increased demand, such as for exercise or an emotional upset.
Robyn N. Sanders, MD
Specialty: Internal Medicine
Location and Office HoursTriad Internal Medicine
Greensboro, NC 27405
- monday: 8:30AM - 5:00PM
- tuesday: 8:30AM - 5:00PM
- wednesday: 8:30AM - 5:00PM
- thursday: 8:30AM - 5:00PM
- BlueCross BlueShield
- BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina
- Coventry Health Care
- First Health
- Great-West Healthcare Cigna
- Tricare/Humana Military Healthcare
- United Healthcare
- The Moses H Cone Memorial Hospital
- Wesley Long Community Hospital
- Is the onset of coronary artery disease easily apparent?
How is cardiovascular disease different in men and women?
Eric Olsen, Fitness, answeredWe typically think of cardiovascular disease (CVD), particularly heart attack, as almost unique to middle-aged or older men, but heart disease is also the number one cause of death among women. It's a woman's disease as well.
Where men and women do differ is in the age at which they tend to show up in their doctors' offices with symptoms of CVD. Whereas men typically begin appearing with symptoms of CVD in their fifties, women generally don't begin showing similar symptoms until their sixties.
Women seem to be somewhat protected from CVD by estrogen, one of the hormones essential to reproduction. Estrogen acts as a vasodilator; that is, it tends to relax blood vessels, opening them up. Thus, even when decades of poor health habits have led to a build-up of plaque in a woman's coronary arteries, thanks to estrogen, the arteries are more likely to remain open, reducing the risk of blockages that shut off blood flow to the heart and cause chest pain or heart attack. Estrogen may also have some beneficial effects on blood cholesterol levels.
Until menopause, that is. Once a woman reaches menopause and her estrogen levels begin to fall, she also begins to lose the protective effects of the hormone. Very quickly, her risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases rises sharply to equal that of men. Because women tend to be older than men when the first symptoms of CVD appear, the disease is also often complicated by other health problems such as diabetes, making effective treatment more difficult. Thus the mortality rate from CVD among women very quickly catches up with that for men.
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How can heart disease cause death?
Harris McIlwain, MD, Pain Medicine, answeredUnfortunately, death can happen suddenly in coronary heart disease. The most common cause is due to irregular heart beat (arrhythmia) which essentially stops the heart and its pumping action and results in death. There is usually a rapid and severe coronary artery clot and blockage of blood flow.
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