Coronary Heart Disease


Atherosclerosis produces fatty plaque deposits that can narrow the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. A heart attack occurs when a blood clot in one of these narrowed arteries suddenly blocks the blood supply, which can result in death or permanent damage to the heart muscle. Each year in the U.S. about 1.2 million people have a heart attack; about half of these heart attacks result in death (survivors often suffer a second or third heart attack). Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.


Coronary artery disease (CAD) also known as atherosclerotic heart disease, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, or ischemic heart disease (IHD), is the most common type of heart disease and cause of heart attacks. The disease is caused by plaque building up along the inner walls of the arteries of the heart, which narrows the lumen of arteries and reduces blood flow to the heart.

While the symptoms and signs of coronary artery disease are noted in the advanced state of disease, most individuals with coronary artery disease show no evidence of disease for decades as the disease progresses before the first onset of symptoms, often a "sudden" heart attack, finally arises. Symptoms of stable ischaemic heart disease include angina (characteristic chest pain on exertion) and decreased exercise tolerance.

Unstable IHD presents itself as chest pain or other symptoms at rest, or rapidly worsening angina. The risk of artery narrowing increases with age, smoking, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, and is more common in men and those who have close relatives with CAD. Other causes include coronary vasospasm, a spasm of the blood vessels of the heart, it is usually called Prinzmetal's angina.

Diagnosis of IHD is with an electrocardiogram, blood tests (cardiac markers), cardiac stress testing or a coronary angiogram. Depending on the symptoms and risk, treatment may be with medication, percutaneous coronary intervention (angioplasty) or coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG).

It was as of 2012 the most common cause of death in the world, and a major cause of hospital admissions. There is limited evidence for population screening, but prevention (with a healthy diet and sometimes medication for diabetes, cholesterol and high blood pressure) is used both to prevent IHD and to decrease the risk of complications.


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The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.