Heart Failure

As coronary artery disease (CAD) weakens the heart's pumping ability, heart failure may set in. The term heart failure is a bit misleading because it suggests that the heart suddenly gives out. However, heart failure is an ongoing, often drawn out process accompanied by unpleasant or even agonizing complications, such as fluid retention and shortness of breath.

Abnormal Heart Beat

An abnormal heart beat is called an arrhythmia. When a person is at rest, the heart normally beats about 60 to 80 times per minute in a predictable, steady pattern and with consistent force. Three types of arrhythmias can develop in people with CAD:

  • Bradycardia: a slow heartbeat.
  • Tachycardia: a fast heart beat
  • Fibrillation: a chaotic, quivering rhythm that is ineffective in pumping blood out of the atria and into the body for circulation. Over time, mild fibrillation can cause stroke or heart failure.

Certain types of arrhythmias can cause the heart to lose its pumping ability without warning. This kind of cardiac arrest causes sudden death if the heart's normal rhythm is not restored immediately by an external defibrillator device or an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.

Learn more about treatment options for arrhythmia.

Related Arterial Diseases

The process that causes cholesterol-rich plaques to accumulate in the coronary arteries affects all the arteries in the body. Atherosclerotic plaques in the carotid arteries in the neck, which supply blood to the brain, can cause strokes. Plaques elsewhere can impede blood flow within the arteries that supply the legs, arms, or vital organs, or they can lead to life-threatening rupture of the aorta, the largest artery in the body.