A heart

Coronary Artery Disease

Also known as coronary heart disease or ischemic heart disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD) develops when fatty deposits (called plaques) develop within the arteries that supply your heart muscle. As a result, these coronary arteries become narrowed and, sometimes, completely blocked off. Because the heart muscle requires a continuous supply of oxygen and nutrients to survive, blockage of a coronary artery rapidly leads to significant problems, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Coronary artery disease is caused by lifestyle factors, such as smoking and lack of exercise, as well as medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus. Treatment includes managing risk factors with lifestyle adjustments and prescription medications, and sometimes directly repairing or replacing the arteries with surgical or specialized procedures.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes coronary artery disease?

    Coronary artery disease is primarily caused by a condition called atherosclerosis in which fatty deposits (called plaques) accumulate within the walls of the arteries that bring oxygenated blood to the heart. High blood pressure and high cholesterol, among other factors, contribute to the development of coronary artery disease.

  • Is there a cure for coronary artery disease?

    Coronary artery disease is not curable, but it can be managed through various therapies, including lifestyle changes (e.g., exercise and smoking cessation) and certain prescription medications (e.g., a statin). Depending on the severity of the disease, surgery or a procedure to open up a blocked or narrowed artery (called an angioplasty or percutaneous intervention) may be warranted.

  • How is coronary artery disease diagnosed?

    There are several tests that doctors utilize to either diagnose coronary artery disease or assess whether a patient has a high likelihood of developing the disease. These tests include various blood tests, an electrocardiogram (ECG), an echocardiogram, a stress test, and a coronary angiogram.

Key Terms

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Page Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronary artery disease (CAD). Updated December 9, 2019.

  2. Lu H, Daugherty A. Atherosclerosis. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2015;35(3):485–491. doi:10.1161/ATVBAHA.115.305380