Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is blockage or narrowing of the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries are blood vessels which supply the heart with blood, they're important because they supply blood to the cardiac muscle which completes the pumping action of the heart.

Symptoms of CAD include chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, discomfort or pain in the shoulder or arms, nausea, a faster heart rate, sweating, heart palpitations, or weakness or dizziness. Angina is the most common symptom of coronary artery disease, and it is sometimes confused with heartburn or indigestion because it is usually felt in the chest. Angina is also sometimes felt in other parts of the upper body.

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease can be caused by high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, or an inactive lifestyle. Damage to the inner wall of an artery due to one of these causes can lead to plaque buildup at the site of the damage, a process called atherosclerosis.

There are many risk factors for CAD: high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, high levels of stress, an unhealthy diet, an inactive lifestyle, smoking, being overweight or obese, a family history of heart disease. Men generally have a higher risk of coronary artery disease, however women have a higher risk after menopause. As a person ages, their risk of damaged or narrowed arteries increases, leading to a higher risk of CAD.

There are a few recommended screening tests for coronary artery disease including blood pressure screenings, cholesterol profiles, and a blood glucose test. Other useful screenings are checking the individual's waist circumference, as well as using the BMI index. A blood pressure screening can detect high blood pressure levels, which usually has no symptoms and can't be detected if it isn't checked for. A fasting lipoprotein profile checks for the different types of cholesterol, which your doctor then uses to help you understand your heart health, and what steps you may want to take to prevent future issues. Blood glucoses tests, waist circumference screening and using the BMI index all help inform you on your risk factors for coronary artery disease, helping to control insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, diet, etc.

Coronary artery disease can cause complications, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, especially during physical activity, heart failure, heart attack, or an abnormal heart rhythm. These issues stem from the narrowing of the coronary arteries due to plaque buildup.

  • Because CAD narrows the arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood, over time the heart can start to weaken and it may get to the point of heart failure: due to the chronic lack of oxygen and nutrients, the heart can become too weak to pump enough blood for the body.
  • Heart attacks can be a complication of CAD because the plaques on the inner walls of the arteries can rupture, forming a blood clot which causes a complete blockage of the coronary artery of the heart-a heart attack-which is a serious issue and has to be treated immediately.
  • An abnormal heart rhythm is also sometimes caused by the insufficient blood flow to the heart which is caused by coronary artery disease. The lack of adequate blood flow or damage to the heart can cause interference with the heart's electrical impulses.


Lifestyle changes can be used to improve overall health and lower the risk of CAD. A few habits to change in order to improve the health of your heart are quitting smoking, increasing levels of physical activity, and a healthier diet can all be worthwhile changes for living with coronary artery disease.

Living With

For people who have coronary artery disease, the same lifestyle changes used for prevention can be used to keep CAD from worsening, to improve overall health and lower risk of serious complications. Exercise, quitting smoking, and changes in diet can all be worthwhile changes for living with coronary artery disease.


Medicines can be used to treat risk factors of coronary artery disease, including high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, or an arrhythmia. There are also certain surgical procedures which are used to improve blood flow to the heart.