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Coronary Artery Disease

Basic Facts

  • Coronary artery disease is the narrowing of the arteries that deliver blood to the heart, which are called the coronary arteries.
  • Most frequently, coronary artery disease is caused by atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
  • Treatment for coronary artery disease includes healthy lifestyle changes, medications, and surgical and minimally invasive procedures.
Coronary artery disease is blockage of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that provide blood to the heart. Much of the coronary artery disease people experience is caused by atherosclerosis, which is also known as hardening of the arteries. Coronary artery disease can develop slowly and take decades before it produces symptoms, or it can come on suddenly. Left untreated, it can lead to angina or acute myocardial infarction. Treatment for coronary artery disease can include lifestyle changes, medications, or surgical and minimally invasive procedures.


During the early stages, coronary artery disease has no symptoms. Erectile dysfunction can be an early indication of the condition before it causes symptoms. When symptoms occur, they can include:
  • Stable angina;
  • Unstable angina;
  • Acute myocardial infarction; and
  • Sudden cardiac death.

The primary cause of coronary artery disease is atherosclerosis. Risk factors include:
  • Heredity;
  • Age;
  • Smoking;
  • Being overweight;
  • Hypertension;
  • High levels of blood lipids;
  • Eating a diet high in fat and cholesterol;
  • Diabetes mellitus;
  • Excessive alcohol use;
  • Metabolic syndrome;
  • Sleep apnea;
  • Emotional stress;
  • Lack of exercise; and
  • Using stimulants or recreational drugs.

Tests used to diagnose coronary artery disease include:
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG);
  • ECG stress test;
  • Nuclear stress test;
  • Echocardiographic stress testing;
  • Blood test;
  • Cardiac catheterization and angiography; and
  • CT angiography.

Treatment for coronary artery disease is aimed at preventing any of its complications by:
  • Relieving symptoms;
  • Slowing, stopping, or reversing atherosclerosis by reducing a person's risk factors;
  • Reducing the risk of blood clot formation; or
  • Clearing or bypassing any blocked arteries.

Physicians recommend patients make therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC), including:
  • Exercising regularly;
  • Quitting smoking;
  • Losing weight; and
  • Eating right.

Medications the physician may prescribe include:
  • Antihypertensives;
  • Lipid-lowering drugs;
  • Anticoagulant therapy; and
  • Antiplatelet therapy.
Surgical and minimally invasive procedures

When medication cannot adequately increase blood supply to the heart, restoring the blood supply (called revascularization) may be necessary to treat the coronary artery disease. Current revascularization options include angioplasty and stenting and coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG).
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