With the correlation of atherosclerotic plaque formation, high levels of cholesterol in the blood can significantly increase the risk of formation of plaque and atherosclerosis. High cholesterol can be caused by a high level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, known as the bad cholesterol. A low level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, known as the good cholesterol, can also contribute to the development of atherosclerosis. The damaged arteries may be caused by other contributing factors including high blood pressure, diabetes and related lifestyles factors such as being obese or overweight, smoking, physical inactivity, high stress and unhealthy diets.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can substantially result in hardening and thickening of the arteries, narrowing the channel through which blood can flow. In patients diagnosed with coronary artery disease, pulse rate must be kept between 60 to 70 beats per minute while systolic blood pressure should remain at the range of 120-140 mmHg, not exceed 150 mmHg to minimize the pressure impact on the inner wall of the arteries.
Diagnosis of coronary atherosclerotic plaque disease
Apart from taking medical history and full physical exam, tests and procedures to diagnose coronary artery disease include:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG). An electrocardiogram is a test that checks how heart functions by measuring the electrical activity of the heart. An ECG can often reveal evidence of heart attack.
- Echocardiogram. An echocardiogram (echo) is a test used to assess the heart’s function and structures. It uses sound waves to produce images of the heart. During an echocardiogram, all parts of the heart wall and pumping activity can be thoroughly examined.
- Exercise Stress Echocardiogram.
- Imaging tests such as cardiac CT scan to evaluate calcium deposits in the arteries and risks of coronary artery disease.
Nevertheless, an ideal test to visualize the arteries is called cardiac catheterization and angiogram. To view blood flow through the heart, a special dye is injected into the coronary arteries (known as an angiogram). During cardiac catheterization, the dye is injected into the arteries of the heart through a long, thin, flexible tube (catheter) that is threaded through an artery, usually in the leg or arm, to the arteries in the heart. The dye outlines narrow spots and blockages on the X-ray images.
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