Coronary Artery Disease


Coronary Artery Disease or CAD, is a condition in which plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries. These arteries supply your heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood.

Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. When plaque builds up in the arteries, the condition is called atherosclerosis.

Plaque narrows the arteries and reduces blood flow to your heart muscle. It also makes it more likely that blood clots will form in your arteries. Blood clots can partially or completely block blood flow.


When your coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked, oxygen-rich blood can't reach your heart muscle. This can cause angina or a heart attack.

Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when not enough oxygen-rich blood is flowing to an area of your heart muscle. Angina may feel like pressure or squeezing in your chest. The pain may also occur in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back.

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to an area of your heart muscle is completely blocked. This prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching that area of heart muscle and causes it to die. Without quick treatment, a heart attack can lead to serious problems and even death.

Over time, CAD can weaken the heart muscle and lead to heart failure and arrhythmias. Heart failure is a condition in which your heart can't pump blood throughout your body. Arrythmias are problems with the speed or rythm of your heartbeat.


CAD is the most common type of heart disease. It's the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women. Lifestyle changes, medicines, and/or medical procedures can effectively prevent or treat CAD in most people.

  • Unhealthy blood cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Family history of heart disease
  • High levels of a protein called C-reactive protein
  • High levels of fats called triglycerides


No single test can diagnose CAD. If your doctor thinks you have CAD, he or she will probably do one or more of the following tests:
  • EKG (Electrocardiogram)
  • Stress Test
  • Echocardiography
  • Chest X-ray
  • Blood tests
  • Electron-Beam Computed Tomography
  • Coronary Angiography
  • Cardiac Catheterization


Treatment for Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) may include lifestyle changes, medicines, and medical procedures. The goals of treatments are to:
  • Relieve symptoms.
  • Reduce risk factors in an effort to slow, stop, or reverse the buildup of plaque.
  • Lower the risk of blood clots forming, which can cause a heart attack.
  • Widen or bypass clogged arteries.
  • Prevent complications of CAD.


Making lifestyle changes can often help prevent or treat CAD. For some people, these changes maybe the only treatment needed:
  • Follow a heart healthy eating plan to prevent or reduce high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol and to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Increase your physical activity. Check with your doctor first to find out how much and what kinds of activity are safe for you.
  • Lose weight, if you're overweight or obese.
  • Quit smoking, if you smoke. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Learn to cope with and reduce stress.


You may need medicines to treat CAD if lifestyle changes aren't enough. Medicines can:
  • Decrease the workload on your heart and relieve CAD symptoms.
  • Decrease your chance of having a heart attack or dying suddenly.
  • Lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Prevent blood clots.
  • Prevent or delay the need for a special procedure like angioplasty or coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG).

Medicines used to treat CAD include anticoagulants, aspirin and other antiplatelet medicines, ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, nitroglycerin, statins, fish oil, and other supplements high in omega-3 fatty acids.