February is National Heart Month, and heart health is an increasingly important issue all over the world, as cases of potentially deadly heart disease continue to rise. Heart disease is an umbrella term that refers to multiple different heart conditions, but one of the most well-known is coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD affects blood flow to the heart and can ultimately cause myocardial infarction (MI), commonly known as a heart attack, and angina pectoris (chest pain).

MI occurs when one or more of the coronary arteries become blocked, resulting in a diminished supply of blood to cardiac muscles and subsequent necrosis of the heart muscle. Blockages are a result of plaques composed of cholesterol and fat.

Angina pectoris refers to chest pain due to ischemia, or a narrowing of blood vessels, resulting in an inadequate supply of blood and oxygen to the cardiac muscles. Angina pectoris denotes the presence of CAD with an increased risk of MI.

According to GlobalData forecasts, in 2022, approximately 5.5% of people in the US suffered from MI, angina pectoris or both. One of the most common treatments for these conditions is percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). PCI, also known as angioplasty, is a minimally invasive procedure that keeps clogged arteries open, improving oxygen flow to the heart. It begins with the insertion of a catheter through the femoral or radial artery into the coronary arteries. Next, a deflated balloon catheter is directed to the blocked area and inflated to open the artery. In addition to balloon angioplasty, there are usually other procedures, such as stent implantation and/or atherectomy, performed during PCI procedures.

The risks associated with heart disease, including but not limited to MI and angina pectoris, are severe. People should be aware of the risks and do their best to mitigate them. Some of the key risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. In the US and several European countries, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women as well as most racial and ethnic groups. In Canada, heart disease is the second leading cause of death. Understanding this, we can see why National Heart Month is so important. National Heart Month brings awareness to heart disease and its risks and will hopefully encourage people to take care of their heart health.