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Why Heart Failure is a Common Complication of CAD

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Bonnie O'Connor
Why Heart Failure is a Common Complication of CAD

Your heart and arteries work together to pump blood through your body. So it will come as no surprise that a diagnosis of coronary artery disease (CAD) can also affect your heart health. That’s because coronary artery disease restricts blood flow to the heart. Over time, this can damage the heart muscle and lead to heart failure.

As many as 48% of U.S. adults have some form of cardiovascular disease. Keeping your heart strong and healthy starts with delaying, lowering, or possibly avoiding your risk for coronary artery disease. Yet CAD is a silent disease that can lurk in your body undetected, wreaking havoc on your heart health.

Managing your risk for heart failure from coronary artery disease starts with education so you can be aware of the symptoms and treatment options. Here’s what you need to know about the risk of heart failure from coronary artery disease.

CAD Is Common in Heart Failure

If you have heart failure, you may have been told that your condition is related to coronary artery disease. Why is this? Heart failure occurs when your heart muscle can no longer pump blood around your body as well as it should. This loss of heart function can be caused by coronary artery disease, which blocks blood flow essential for healthy heart function. In some cases, arteries can become blocked entirely, leading to a heart attack severely damaging the heart muscle.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease. Other risk factors in heart failure include high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as health problems such as obesity, smoking, and heavy alcohol consumption.

Left-Sided Heart Failure Is Most Common

You can be diagnosed with different types of heart failure. Left-sided heart failure is the most common and is often caused by coronary artery disease. With left-sided heart failure, the heart loses some of its ability to pump blood out to your body after it has been oxygenated. Right-sided heart failure happens when the heart can’t move oxygen-depleted blood to the lungs to pick up new oxygen. In congestive heart failure, fluid backs up and collects in the feet, ankles, legs, and lungs, congesting tissues and inhibiting blood flow.

Heart Failure Happens in Stages

You can have heart disease and coronary artery disease without noticing any symptoms. That’s because they are both progressive diseases. For example, you might not notice any symptoms in the early stages of heart failure. But as heart function declines, symptoms become more pronounced. You may experience shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, coughing, and swelling in the legs. Rapid weight gain can also be a sign that fluid has built up in your body. The four classifications of heart failure according to the New York Heart Association are: 

  • Class 1: Cardiac disease but no symptoms and no limitation in ordinary physical activity

  • Class 2: Mild symptoms and slight limitation during ordinary activity

  • Class 3: Significant limitation in activity due to symptoms; comfortable only at rest

  • Class 4: Severe limitations; symptoms even while at rest

Your Risk of Heart Disease Rises With Age

Both coronary artery disease and heart failure are common in older adults. In fact, heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalization in people older than 65. About 659,000 deaths are due to heart failure in the United States each year. Coronary artery disease and heart failure affect men and women alike. Each year, about 5.7 million Americans are afflicted with coronary artery disease or heart failure, and about 550,000 new cases of heart failure occur.

To identify your type of heart disease, your doctor will perform various tests to determine how well the muscle is working and how efficiently it is pumping blood through the chambers. These tests will also look for any structural changes in the heart, electrical function, heart valves, enlargement, and fluid buildup. Some tests, like the stress test, might be done while you exercise so your doctor can see how the heart is working.

You Can Treat, But Not Cure, Heart Failure

Treatment for heart failure depends on the type of failure you have and the severity of your condition. Many people can control their heart failure with medicine, lifestyle changes, and other therapies. But some people need to have a device implanted in their chest that helps their heart pump blood, while others might need to have an abnormal rhythm treated with a pacemaker or implanted defibrillator.

For heart failure caused by coronary artery disease, angioplasty can be done to remove any blockages in the arteries to improve heart function. A stent might also be used to keep the blood vessel open. A coronary artery bypass reroutes blood supply around a blocked section of an artery in more severe cases. In the most severe cases of heart disease that can’t be managed with medication or surgery, a heart transplant may be the only treatment.

People Can Live With Heart Failure

The best way for people with heart failure to manage their condition is to take their medications as directed and make lifestyle changes. Medications can be prescribed to control blood pressure, reduce excess fluid in your body, reduce sodium in your blood, improve blood flow, and slow your heart rate. Your doctor might also recommend changes that limit sodium and reduce saturated fats and trans fats in your diet. Some things you can do to monitor your heart health include: 

  • Tracking your symptoms

  • Letting your doctor know if symptoms change

  • Taking your medications as prescribed

  • Reducing your salt and fluid intake

  • Logging your weight daily

Find Age-Friendly Care Where You Live

Age-friendly Health Care is care that addresses your unique needs and wants. It can help you

enjoy a better quality of life with the care that is safe and based on what research shows are the most important things to pay attention to as we get older, the 4Ms for healthy aging: what Matters most to you, the Medication you take and how it impacts your wellbeing, Mentation (that’s your mood and memory) and your Mobility, which is so crucial for maintaining your health and independence. Did you know that more and more health systems are offering Age-Friendly Care? Learn about Age-Friendly Health Care and where you can find it at


THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.



Date posted: Dec 21, 2021
living as we age

Bonnie is a content and copywriter for the technology and healthcare industries.

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