Heart Disease
(Coronary Artery Disease)

Heart Disease Summary
Heart disease (coronary artery disease) is caused by a buildup of cholesterol deposits in the coronary arteries. Risk factors for heart disease include smoking, high blood pressure, heredity, diabetes, peripheral artery disease, and obesity. Symptoms include chest pain and shortness of breath. There are a variety of tests used to diagnose coronary artery disease. Treatment includes life-style changes, medications, procedures, or surgery.
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Heart disease facts

  • Heart disease refers to several conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. Arrhythmias, heart valve disease, congenital heart defects, and inflammation of the heart or its lining (the pericardium) are all diseases that affect the heart. However, this article will focus on the most common type of heart disease, coronary artery disease (CAD), also known as atherosclerotic heart disease (ASHD).
  • Coronary artery disease is the most common cause of death in the United States. Over a million people each year will have a heart attack and 25% will die before they get to the hospital while or in the Emergency Department.
  • Prevention is the key to treatment of heart disease.
  • Diagnosis of heart disease is often made by careful history taken by a health care practitioner. Some individuals may have atypical symptoms, including almost none at all.
  • The testing strategy to confirm the diagnosis and plan appropriate treatment needs to be individualized for each patient diagnosed with heart disease.
  • Treatment of heart disease depends upon the severity of disease, and is often directed by the symptoms experienced by the affected individual.

Introduction to heart disease

The heart is like any other muscle, requiring oxygen and nutrient-rich blood for it to function. The coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle spread across the surface of the heart, beginning at the base of the aorta and branching out to all areas of the heart muscle.

The coronary arteries are at risk for narrowing as cholesterol deposits, called plaques, build up inside the artery. If the arteries narrow enough, blood supply to the heart muscle may be compromised (slowed down), and this slowing of blood flow to the heart causes pain, or angina.

A heart attack or myocardial infarction occurs when a plaque ruptures, allowing a blood clot to form. This completely obstructs the artery, stopping all blood flow to part of the heart muscle, and that portion of muscle dies.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/22/2014

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Heart Disease - Diagnosis Question: Have you been diagnosed with a type of heart disease? If so, what was the diagnosis and treatment.
Heart Disease - Risk Factors Question: What are/were your risk factors for developing heart disease?
Heart Disease - Symptoms Question: Describe the symptoms associated with your heart disease.
Heart Disease - Tests Question: Please describe the exams and tests you received that led to a diagnosis of heart disease.
Heart Disease - Prevention Question: If you have or are at risk for heart disease, how do you try to prevent a heart attack?
Heart Disease - Medications Question: What medications and/or supplements do you take to prevent heart disease?
Heart Disease - Angioplasty Question: Please share your experience with angioplasty, stenting, or heart surgery.

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