Coronary Artery Disease

What is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)?

Coronary artery disease refers to the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries of the heart. When narrowing or blockage occurs in one of the coronary arteries, the portion of the heart that the coronary artery leads to fails to receive enough oxygenated blood. The lack of oxygenated blood may cause the individual to experience chest pain (angina pectoris). This pain may occur when the heart must work harder, causing the heart’s oxygen demand to be greater than the oxygen supply.

Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease and is the number one cause of death in the US. Fortunately, it is highly treatable and preventable.

Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease

Many people (as many as 30% of all patients) with coronary artery disease experience no symptoms. For others, symptoms are usually varying degrees of chest pain and shortness of breath. Often, the first symptom of CAD is a heart attack or cardiac arrest.

Risk Factors of Coronary Artery Disease

There are a number of risk factors for developing coronary artery disease. Some can be modified, meaning that a person can make lifestyle changes to decrease their risk of developing CAD. Other risk factors cannot be changed, but knowing of a predisposition for developing CAD can help many people take other preventative measures. Risk factors include:

  • Age – Men age 45 and older, and women 55 and older.
  • Family history – If parents or siblings suffer from CAD there is a greater chance of also developing CAD.
  • Cigarette smoking – Proven to accelerate atherosclerosis.
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Overweight/obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Diabetes

Diagnosing Coronary Artery Disease

If you experience any symptoms, or if you have a family history of coronary artery disease, you should contact your physician as soon as possible. Your doctor will review your medical and family history and perform a complete physical exam. If he/she suspects coronary artery disease, he/she may prescribe any of the following tests:

Treatment Options

If your physician determines that you do have coronary artery disease, he/she will take immediate action to treat the disease and decrease your risk of further damage, heart attack or cardiac arrest. Your doctor will develop with you a treatment plan consisting of lifestyle changes, medication, and, perhaps, surgery.


There are things all of us can do to decrease our risk of all heart disease, including coronary artery disease. These preventative measures can also help improve a heart already affected by CAD. Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • Know your family history – Be aware of the occurrence of CAD in your family so you can control other risk factors and be vigilant for any signs or symptoms
  • Quit smoking – This step can prevent numerous problems and improve overall health and well-being
  • Control/avoid high blood pressure – Enjoy a heart-healthy diet low in fat and sodium to control and decrease high blood pressure as well as high cholesterol
  • Control/avoid high cholesterol
  • Lose weight – If you are considered overweight or obese, discuss with your doctor the right weight loss plan for you
  • Exercise – Exercise is one of the best ways to avoid as well as control CAD. Thirty minutes of exercise each day is all it takes to provide great benefit to your heart and overall health
  • Diabetes – If you suffer from diabetes, be sure to keep it under control through diet, medication and regular check-ups
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