Question

Heart and Circulatory System

What is coronary artery disease (CAD)?

A Answers (21)

  • AMehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answered
    Coronary Artery Disease
    Coronary artery disease, or CAD, refers to build up of a fatty material called plaque, which can slow, or block the flow of blood in the coronary arteries (the blood vessels that supply blood containing oxygen and nutrients to the heart). Learn more about coronary artery disease by watching this animation.


  • Coronary artery disease is a condition in which fatty deposits cause thickening of the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. This causes the arteries to narrow, which reduces blood flow. When these arteries become blocked, the heart is deprived of oxygen resulting in heart attack.
  • ANassir Azimi, MD, Cardiology, answered
    As the name explains, CAD is the disease of the arteries of the heart itself.  These arteries run on the surface of the heart muscle and supply blood to the heart wall.  Over time damage to the arteries leads to cholesterol and plaque buildup and slow obstruction.  These plaques can cause chest pain or angina due to limitation of blood flow to the distal muscles or they can rupture and lead to a sudden heart attack where a clot forms and obstructs the flow of blood completely.  
  • AScripps Health answered

    Coronary artery disease develops when plaque builds up in arteries that supply blood to the heart, causing the arteries to narrow and make it difficult for blood to carry oxygen to the heart, which can lead to a heart attack.

  • ASameer A. Sayeed, MD, Cardiology, answered
    Coronary artery disease is due to abnormalities and pathologic changes in the coronary arteries. The walls of the coronary arteries are damaged by such things as cigarette smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cocaine and stress. The resulting damage leads to the development of cholesterol plaques and blockages of the coronary artery. The changes also cause the vessel to react abnormally to changes in blood flow. The combination of these two things can lead to heart attacks.  
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a narrowing of the coronary arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. CAD is usually caused by a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis means that fat, cholesterol, and other substances have built up in the coronary arteries. This buildup, often called plaque, irritates and scars the arteries, causing them to become hard and thickened. Over time, atherosclerosis narrows the opening that blood passes through, limiting the amount of blood delivered to your heart. When this happens, you have CAD.

    Risk factors for CAD include anything that damages your arteries. Some of these risk factors are beyond your control, such as your family medical history or your age. Yet other risk factors can be changed and include your lifestyle choices such as smoking, diet, and your activity level.

    Unfortunately, many people don't know they have it until the disease is fairly advanced. At this point, they may experience angina or a heart attack.

    Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease. Around 17 million Americans suffer from CAD. It's the number one killer of both men and women in the United States.

    Despite these grim statistics, most people can live full and rewarding lives with heart disease. The keys are paying attention to your symptoms, getting good medical care -- and taking care of yourself.
  • AHealthwise answered

    Coronary artery disease is caused by the buildup of plaque on the inside of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. Plaque is made up of excess cholesterol, calcium, and other substances that float in blood and, over time, build up on the inside walls of the coronary arteries and other arteries.

    This process of plaque buildup is called hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. The plaque deposits decrease the space through which blood can flow. Poor blood flow can "starve" the heart muscle and lead to angina symptoms such as chest pain or pressure. A heart attack results when blood flow is completely blocked, usually by a blood clot forming over a plaque that has broken open (ruptured).

    Coronary artery disease is treated with lifestyle changes, such as increasing exercise, eating a heart-healthy diet, and stopping smoking. Coronary artery disease also is treated with medicines to help reduce high cholesterol, control high blood pressure, and manage other things that increase risk.

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  • Coronary artery disease (CAD), also known as coronary heart disease (CHD), occurs when the coronary arteries (the blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle) gradually become narrowed or blocked by plaque (a combination of fatty material, calcium, scar tissue, and proteins) deposits. The plaque deposits decrease the space through which blood can flow, leading to poor blood flow. As platelets (disc-shaped particles in the blood that aid clotting) come to the area, blood clots form around the plaque, causing the artery to narrow even further. Sometimes, the blood clot breaks apart, and blood supply is restored. In other cases, the blood clot (coronary thrombus) may totally block the blood supply to the heart muscle (coronary occlusion). This lack of blood flow (called ischemia) can "starve" some of the heart muscle and lead to chest pain (angina). A heart attack (myocardial infarction) results when blood flow is completely blocked, usually by a blood clot forming over a plaque that has ruptured. Unhealthy habits, such as a diet high in cholesterol and other fats, smoking, and lack of exercise accelerate the deposit of fat and calcium within the inner lining of coronary arteries.

    CAD is the most common form of heart disease and the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States. CAD affects about 14 million men and women in the United States, and claims more lives than the other seven leading causes of death combined.

    Atherosclerosis: Coronary artery disease is a type of atherosclerosis in which plaque builds up inside the arteries that carry blood to the heart. As the artery walls thicken, the passageway for blood narrows. Sometimes platelets gather at the narrow area and form a clot that decreases or prevents blood flow to the region of the heart supplied by the artery. Atherosclerosis can also lead to stroke (lack of oxygen) in the brain.

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  • AIrvin Naylor, MD, Cardiology, answered on behalf of Carolinas HealthCare System
    Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a condition caused by thickening of the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. When these arteries become blocked, the heart is deprived of oxygen and can become damaged. Severe cases can result in a heart attack.
  • Coronary artery disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. Also known as coronary heart disease, this disorder involves the progressive narrowing of the arteries that nourish the heart muscle. Often this disease is asymptomatic, but if one or more of these arteries become severely narrowed angina may develop during exercise, stress, or other times when the heart muscle is not getting enough blood.
  • Coronary artery disease occurs when a substance called plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart (called coronary arteries). Plaque is made up of cholesterol deposits, which can accumulate in your arteries. When this happens, your arteries can narrow over time. This process is called atherosclerosis.

    Plaque buildup can cause angina, the most common symptom of CAD. This condition causes chest pain or discomfort because the heart muscle doesn't get enough blood. Over time, CAD can weaken the heart muscle. This may lead to heart failure, a serious condition where the heart can't pump blood the way that it should. An irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, can also develop.

    For some people, the first sign of CAD is a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when plaque totally blocks an artery carrying blood to the heart. It also can happen if a plaque deposit breaks off and clots a coronary artery.

    The presence of the CDC logo and CDC content on this page should not be construed to imply endorsement by the US Government of any commercial products or services, or to replace the advice of a medical professional. The mark “CDC” is licensed under authority of the PHS.
  • ASamin K. Sharma, MD, Cardiology, answered on behalf of The Mount Sinai Health System
    Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common form of heart disease. In coronary artery disease, fatty deposits known as plaques collect on the inner wall of the blood vessels. Over time, the plaques thicken and arteries narrow (atherosclerosis), making it harder for the heart to pump blood throughout your body. Left untreated, atherosclerosis can lead to a heart attack. Diet, stress, activity level, and family history all play a role in developing coronary artery disease.
  • Coronary artery disease occurs when fat and cholesterol build up on the inside of your coronary arteries. This buildup narrows or completely blocks the inside of the artery. Blood cannot flow freely through the arteries. This may cause chest pain or a heart attack.
  • Coronary artery disease, sometimes called hardening of the arteries, is caused by narrowing or blocking of the blood vessels that go to your heart. Your blood carries oxygen and other needed materials to your heart. If the blood vessels to your heart become partially or totally blocked by fatty deposits, then the blood supply is reduced or cut off. Then a heart attack, sometimes called a myocardial infarction or MI, can occur.
  • AAllan Stewart, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgery, answered on behalf of Columbia University Department of Surgery

    Coronary artery disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. This disorder involves the progressive narrowing of the arteries that nourish the heart muscle. The cause of coronary artery disease is the progressive build-up of cholesterol. Often this disease is asymptomatic, but if one or more of these arteries become severely narrowed angina may develop during exercise, stress, or other times when the heart muscle is not getting enough blood.

  • AFrank Downey, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgery, answered on behalf of Aurora Health Care
    Coronary artery disease is defined as blockages of the coronary arteries, which limits blood flow to certain areas of the heart muscle. This lack of blood flow can result in the muscle dying off as in myocardial infarction or heart attack.
  • ASCAI answered
    Coronary artery disease, or CAD, is a build-up of fat and cholesterol in the arteries that supply blood to your heart. These deposits, which are called plaques, grow slowly over decades and can sometimes become hardened with fibrous tissue and calcium. As the plaques grow, in a disease process called atherosclerosis, portions of the artery become clogged and narrowed. If an artery is severely obstructed, it reduces blood flow to the heart and can cause chest pain or even a heart attack.

    If your doctor has told you that you have coronary artery disease, you know it is serious, but you should also realize that you are not alone. Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease. In fact, nearly 18 million Americans have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease – and many millions more have it but don’t know it! It is true that heart disease is still the most common cause of death among both men and women, claiming the lives of more than a half million Americans each year. But it is also true that, today, more and more people with coronary artery disease are living long and active lives, thanks to remarkable advances in diagnosis and treatment. There are many resources available to you for learning more about CAD, and an entire team of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare specialists who can help you to make healthy changes in your life.

  • AMimi Guarneri, Cardiology, answered on behalf of Healthy Humans

    Coronary arteries are the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Coronary artery disease begins when there is damage to the lining of the blood vessel. This damage can come as a result of multiple risk factors including diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and even stress. As the lining of the blood vessel is damaged, plaque made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances builds up in the wall of the artery. Plaque narrows the arteries and reduces blood flow to the heart.

    When a patient's arteries are narrowed or blocked in this way, oxygen-rich blood can't reach the heart, leading to chest pain and even heart attack. Similarly, reduced blood flow because of plaque build up can lead to carotid artery disease (when the arteries supplying your brain begin to narrow) and peripheral vascular disease (the narrowing of the vessels supplying the legs and other areas outside the heart and brain).

    Diabetes increases the risk factor for heart disease, but you can take control of all risk factors in order to combat coronary artery disease. Change eating habits to raise HDL ("good") cholesterol and lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Work to lower blood pressure, and if you are a smoker, try to quit. Smoking doubles your risk of getting heart disease. Shedding extra weight can also help reduce your risk of heart disease.

  • Coronary artery disease—also called atherosclerosis—is caused by fatty deposits blocking the blood vessels that supply the heart. Undetected, these blockages can be serious health threats, causing heart attack and even sudden death.

  • ARealAge answered

    In coronary artery disease (CAD), fatty deposits in the cells of the artery walls narrow the diameter of the blood vessel and reduce blood flow (called atherosclerosis). This insufficient blood flow can lead to abnormal heart rhythms, angina, heart failure (a decreased ability of the heart to keep up with its workload), myocardial infarction or "heart attack," and sudden cardiac death.

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  • AUnitedHealthcare answered

    Coronary arteries are blood vessels that surround the heart. They supply the heart muscle with the blood it needs to pump effectively. Coronary artery disease occurs when the coronary arteries become narrowed or blocked. The blood flow to the heart muscle then slows or stops. This can cause a heart attack.

    You might also hear coronary artery disease referred to as:

    • CAD
    • Atherosclerosis
    • Coronary or ischemic heart disease
    • Hardening of the arteries

    Complications of coronary artery disease include:

    • Angina. Chest pain and discomfort
    • Arrhythmia. Problems with the speed and rhythm of the heart
    • Heart failure. Weakening of the heart muscle
    • Heart attack. Damage to or death of heart muscle
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