SAN ANTONIO — Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease in the U.S. For some people a heart attack is the first sign of coronary artery disease.
That's one of the reasons it is often called the silent killer. Plaque buildup in the arteries is how the disease progresses preventing blood flow to the heart.
"Plaque is cholesterol buildup in the arteries of your heart. And that cholesterol buildup can lead to narrowing that cost, chest pain, heart failure, or even heart attacks," said Dr. Marlene Garcia who is an interventional cardiologist with University Health and UT Health San Antonio.
She says prevention is key.
"We would also recommend things like becoming more physically active, basically things that will help minimize from that plaque becoming a heart attack or getting worse over time," Dr. Garcia told us.
That includes controlling high blood pressure, avoiding or controlling diabetes, avoiding high cholesterol, and recognizing a family history for the disease. There's also a brand new test where you can see how much plaque you may have in your arteries called a "Cardiac C.T."
"You're able to see even small amounts of plaque in your artery," Dr. Garcia told us. "15 percent, 20 percent amount of plaque that then you can then come up with a plan with your doctor to try to prevent that from getting worse or to try to stabilize that so it doesn't lead to a heart attack."
Dr. Garcia says based on what the scan shows it is possible to stop the buildup of plaque or even reduce it with medication, avoiding surgery. But make sure to check with your insurance company to see if they cover the test.
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