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Cardiac Conditions

Coronary Artery Disease

Also known as: Coronary heart disease, atherosclerotic heart disease.

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in both men & women in the United States and CAD is the most common type of heart disease.

Over the course of time, inflammatory substances, cholesterol, and calcium in the body build up in the artery walls forming atherosclerosis (also known as plaque). As plaque continues to build up, the artery gradually hardens and becomes narrow. This ultimately leads to the heart not receiving enough blood (which carries oxygen and essential nutrients). When plaque builds up in the coronary arteries (blood supply of the heart) this is called Coronary Artery Disease (CAD).

When a large part of a coronary artery is filled with atherosclerotic plaque, the blood flow can be decreased significantly. This decreased blood flow can cause a type of chest pain called angina and other symptoms.

If a piece of this plaque is broken off (atherothrombosis) it can cause a blockage. At the site of the break-off, a blood clot may form (a process called thrombogenesis) which can worsen the blockage. If the plaque, with or without the clot, blocks the artery, a heart attack can occur.

In general, men are at a higher risk than women for CAD. However, after menopause, women are equally prone but may have different symptoms than men.

Due to atherosclerosis of 1 or more coronary arteries:

  • Right Coronary Artery
  • Left Coronary Artery
  • Left Anterior Descending Circumflex Branch
  • Circumflex Artery
  • Branches

Note: Not everyone may experience all symptoms

  • Stress
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Eating a diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • Smoking or the other tobacco products
  • High LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • Low HDL (good cholesterol)
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood pressure in pregnancy (pre-eclampsia)
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Kidney Disease
  • Abdominal obesity
  • Family history
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Illicit drug use
  • Autoimmune diseases (Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, etc.)

Learn more

Hajar R. Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease: Historical Perspectives. Heart Views. 2017;18(3):109-114. doi:10.4103/HEARTVIEWS.HEARTVIEWS_106_17
Laslett LJ, Alagona P Jr, Clark BA 3rd, et al. The worldwide environment of cardiovascular disease: prevalence, diagnosis, therapy, and policy issues: a report from the American College of Cardiology. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2012;60(25 Suppl):S1-S49. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2012.11.002
Cagle SD Jr, Cooperstein N. Coronary Artery Disease: Diagnosis and Management. Prim Care. 2018 Mar;45(1):45-61. doi: 10.1016/j.pop.2017.10.001. PMID: 29406944.
Andrade PJ, Medeiros MM, Andrade AT, Lima AA. Coronary angioplasty versus CABG: review of randomized trials. Arq Bras Cardiol. 2011;97(3):e60-e69. doi:10.1590/s0066-782×2011001200021
Arnett DK, et al. 2019 ACC/AHA guideline on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease: Executive summary: A report of the American College Of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on clinical practice guidelines. Circulation. 2019; doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000677.
Ooi EM, Lichtenstein AH, Millar JS, et al. Effects of Therapeutic Lifestyle Change diets high and low in dietary fish-derived FAs on lipoprotein metabolism in middle-aged and elderly subjects. J Lipid Res. 2012;53(9):1958-1967. doi:10.1194/jlr.P024315