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What You Need To Know About Coronary Artery Disease

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Updated June 26, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Sooner or later most of us will be affected by coronary artery disease (CAD), either in ourselves or in our loved ones. While CAD remains the number one killer in the developed world, getting good medical care can make all the difference. And getting good medical care means you need to know a lot about CAD.

These articles will help you understand what CAD is, what kinds of problems it causes, how it is diagnosed and treated, and even how to think about it. Arming yourself with this information will help to assure that you or your loved ones will get the care you need, when you need it.

1. Coronary Artery Disease - The Basics

Here is a brief overview of CAD. It gives the essentials, while providing links to more in-depth information.

2. The New Way of Thinking About Coronary Artery Disease

Most people - and unfortunately, many doctors - still think about CAD in the "traditional" way. They regard it as a gradually progressive disease of the coronary arteries, that gradually produces blockages - and therapy is therefore aimed mainly at relieving "significant" blockages (with stents or surgery).

But this old way of thinking turns out to be only half the story, and addresses only half the problem. Having a good outcome with CAD requires addressing the other half of the story, as well.

This article describes the new way of thinking about CAD, and why the best treatment means thinking about options in addition to - or instead of - stents.

3. Acute Coronary Syndrome - ACS

Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) occurs when a coronary artery plaque ruptures, and a blood clot forms in the artery, causing sudden partial or complete blockage. ACS can produce unstable angina, heart attacks, or even sudden death.

Taking steps to prevent ACS, and recognizing the symptoms of ACS so that therapy can be instituted immediately, is critically important for anyone with CAD. These articles will tell you what you need to know.

4. Diagnosing Coronary Artery Disease

Lots and lots (and lots) of tests have been devised for helping to diagnose CAD. Which tests to use, and when to use them, can be confusing - even for doctors - unless a few basic principles are kept in mind.

This article discusses what the appropriate goals ought to be when testing for CAD, and which kinds of tests ought to be used for which specific goals. Understanding these simple concepts will help you make sure your doctor's head is also straight when he/she is suggesting a diagnostic procedure.

5. Treating Coronary Artery Disease

There are many treatments available for CAD, from lifestyle changes, to drugs, to stents, to surgery - and not all of these treatments are appropriate for everyone with CAD.

Choosing the right treatments depends on the specific goal of therapy - Reducing angina? Preventing heart attacks? Slowing the progression of the CAD? This article will help you sort it all out.

6. Coronary Artery Disease in Women

While CAD is the number one killer of women in developed countries - just as it is for men - CAD can be quite different in women than in men. The symptoms can be different, diagnostic tests can give the "wrong" answers, and even the nature of CAD itself can be different in women.

This article discusses CAD in women, emphasizing the specific information women ought to know.

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