What is Coronary Artery Disease?
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a blockage of the arteries that feed the heart muscle. This occurs when fatty material and plaque build-up on the artery walls causing them to narrow. As the coronary arteries narrow, blood flow to the heart is compromised and can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, heart attack, and other symptoms. If the blockage is complete, areas of the heart muscle may be damaged and/or die from lack of oxygen, which can lead to a heart attack. CAD is the most common form of heart disease and is the leading cause of death in the United States and worldwide.
Who is at Risk?
Risk factors for CAD include smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, unhealthful diet, physical inactivity, obesity and stress. Also, men over age 45 and women over age 55 are at increased risk, and men in general are at greater risk due to, on average, higher total cholesterol levels and higher blood pressure. African-Americans have a higher risk than whites, Hispanics or Asian Americans, and their heart disease is often more severe. Genetic factors play a role, as well. You have an increased risk if you have a father or brother younger than age 55 or a mother or sister younger than age 65 who had a heart attack, sudden cardiac death, chest pain (angina) or coronary artery disease.
Learn more about how coronary artery disease is diagnosed and treated
Frequently asked questions about coronary artery disease.