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Coronary Artery Disease

Image on left shows how atherosclerosis impedes blood flow through coronary arteries while blood clots block blood flow. Courtesy Google.

Figure on right shows how atherosclerosis impedes blood flow through coronary arteries while blood clots block blood flow. Courtesy Google.

What Is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)?

Coronary artery disease (CAD), also called ischemic heart disease, is a gradual narrowing of medium and large arteries of the heart by fatty buildups, called atherosclerotic plaques.

It is characterized by slowly developing interference with blood flow to heart tissue itself, resulting in oppressive chest pain called angina and, ultimately, thrombosis (clot) causing heart attack.  

The heart is a muscular organ that is working all the time, so it needs a constant supply of oxygen. Oxygen is brought to the working heart tissue by the coronary arteries with each beat of the heart. When heart muscle has to work harder, it needs more oxygen delivered to itself. Lack of oxygen causes pain.

In fact, failure of diseased coronary arteries to deliver adequate oxygen to heart tissue is the most common cause of angina pectoris – substernal pain (under breastbone) or pressure brought on by exertion and relieved by rest. 

Thrombosis, or clot formation, occurs when blood cells within a narrowed artery can no longer get through. Trapped, blood cells pile up and block the artery thus triggering a cascade of events called heart attack. Coronary arteries that are narrowed by atherosclerotic plaques can rupture causing injury to the coronary blood vessel resulting in blood clotting which blocks the flow of blood to the heart muscle. Blood clots may form, partially dissolve, and later form again and angina can occur each time a clot blocks blood flow in an artery.1

Q: How does coronary artery disease develop?

A: Coronary artery disease slowly develops from this combination of events:

  • Dysfunction of epithelial cells that line the inside of arteries cause the vessels to stiffen, and subsequently

  • Accumulation of lipid (fat) in smooth muscle cells beneath the inside lining of arteries and in foam cells cause buildup of fatty deposits on the inside walls progressing to fibrous plaque formation.

Oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL), so-called bad cholesterol, and oxysterols play important roles in the development of  atherosclerosis. OxLDL triggers the immune system to produce autoantibodies against oxLDL that are detectable in serum. These antibodies are called anti-oxLDL. Anti-oxLDL antibody and oxysterol concentrations are associated with coronary artery stenosis. Oxidative stress may be greatly increased in unstable angina.2 and Chronic inflammation in the general population is a major risk factor for ischemic heart disease.

The pathophysiology of atherosclerosis is, clearly, different in women when compared to the men. The women have a higher risk of blood coagulability making them at high risk for the blood clot formation. In a large number of women endothelial dysfunction, small vessel size and diffuse atherosclerosis have been identified as causes of ischemia without evidence of blockade in the coronary arteries.3

Also, atherosclerotic plaque in women is less fibrotic and contains more lipid filled foam cells, implying greater potential for reversibility but also potentially greater vulnerability for plaque rupture and thrombosis.4

Who is Affected in the General Population?

  • Coronary artery disease remains the leading cause of death in developed countries despite significant progress in primary prevention and treatment strategies.

  • It is the leading cause of death in women, as well as an important cause of disability.

  • Older patients are at particularly high risk of poor outcomes following acute coronary syndrome.5

What Is Coronary Artery Disease In Celiac Disease and/or Gluten Sensitivity?

Ischemic heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, making cardiovascular risk assessments and potential interventions or treatments imperative for patients with celiac disease.6


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  1. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/SymptomsDiagnosisofHeartAttack/Unstable-Angina_UCM_437513_Article.jsp# 

  2. Yasunobu Y, Hayashi K, Shingu T, Yamagata T, Kajiyama G, Kambe M. Coronary atherosclerosis and oxidative stress as reflected by autoantibodies against oxidized low-density lipoprotein and oxysterosis. Atherosclerosis. Apr 2001;155(2):445-53. 

  3. Kunadian V, Ford GA, Bawamia B, Qiu W, Manson JE. Vitamin D deficiency and coronary artery disease: A review of the evidence. Am Heart J. 2014 Mar;167(3):283-291. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2013.11.012. Epub 2013 Dec 19. 

  4. Kunadian V, Ford GA, Bawamia B, Qiu W, Manson JE. Vitamin D deficiency and coronary artery disease: A review of the evidence. Am Heart J. 2014 Mar;167(3):283-291. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2013.11.012. Epub 2013 Dec 19. 

  5. Kunadian V, Ford GA, Bawamia B, Qiu W, Manson JE. Vitamin D deficiency and coronary artery disease: A review of the evidence. Am Heart J. 2014 Mar;167(3):283-291. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2013.11.012. 

  6. Robinson BL, Davis SC, Vess J, Lebel, J. Primary care management of celiac disease. Nurse Practitioner. February 2015: Vol 40 – Issue 2; 28–34. 

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