Coronary microvascular disease, also known as small vessel disease, is a condition characterized by the small arteries in the heart becoming narrowed. The disease is more common in women and in people with diabetes. The disease can be hard to detect, but is treatable.
Microvascular disease occurs when the small vessels within your heart do not expand while you are active. Normally these blood vessels will expand during activity to allow more oxygen into your blood. When these small vessels cannot expand the condition is called endothelial dysfunction.
Chest Pain Symptoms
The most common symptom of microvascular disease is chest pain or discomfort. You may experience a squeezing pain in the left or central part of your chest. This pain can be associated with pain in the jaw or left arm. You will typically notice these symptoms when you are active such as walking or climbing stairs. Stress can also bring about symptoms.
Other symptoms of microvascular disease include shortness of breath, sweating, feeling lightheaded, nausea, vomiting and discomfort in the neck, shoulder, abdomen and upper back. Microvascular disease symptoms resemble coronary heart disease so if you have been treated for coronary heart disease and still have the same symptoms, the cause may be small vessel disease.
An electrocardiogram will detect any irregular heartbeats, indicating narrowed or blocked arteries. A CT angiogram or MRI will show images of arteries in your heart, and your doctor can determine if they are narrowed or blocked.
Treatment for microvascular disease will involve medications to stop or reverse the narrowing of small vessels in the heart. Statin medications control cholesterol buildup in arteries and can treat damaged vessels. ACE inhibitors lower blood pressure and help expand blood vessels allowing blood to flow much easier. Aspirin taken daily prevents blood clots and may deter a heart attack. Discuss aspirin therapy with your doctor first as it can interfere with other medications you may be taking. Surgery is normally not an option because of the small size of the blood vessels.
While there is no specific way to avoid microvascular disease, you can reduce risk factors. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day five days a week and eat a diet rich in heart-healthy foods such as fish, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Lower your salt intake, as excess sodium in your diet can lead to high blood pressure. Have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly and reduce stress in your life as much as possible.