Coronary Artery Disease
(CAD; Coronary Atherosclerosis; Silent MI; Coronary Heart Disease; Ischemic Heart Disease; Atherosclerosis of the Coronary Arteries)
by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Coronary arteries bring oxygen rich blood to the heart muscle. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is narrowing of these arteries. If the blockage is complete, areas of the heart muscle may be damaged. In a severe case, the heart muscle dies. This can lead to a heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction (MI).
Risk Factors TOP
Men, especially those who are over 45 years of age, are at increased risk. Women who are over 55 years of age are also at increased risk.
Factors that may increase your risk of CAD include:
Other risk factors may include:
CAD may progress without any symptoms.
Angina is chest pain that comes and goes. It often has a squeezing or pressure-like quality. It may radiate into the shoulder(s), arm(s), or jaw. Angina usually lasts for about 2-10 minutes. It is often relieved with rest. Angina can be triggered by:
Chest pain may indicate more serious unstable angina or a heart attack if it includes the following:
Accompanying symptoms may include:
Immediate medical attention is needed for unstable angina. CAD in women may not cause typical symptoms. It is likely to start with shortness of breath and fatigue.
If you go to the emergency room with chest pain, some tests will be done right away. The tests will attempt to see if you are having angina or a heart attack. If you have a stable pattern of angina, other tests may be done to determine the severity of your disease.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
You may need to have your bodily fluids tested. This can be done with blood tests.
You may need to have pictures taken of your heart. This can be done with:
You may need to have your heart function tested. This can be done with:
Treatment may include:
This medication is usually given during an attack of angina. It can be given as a tablet that dissolves under the tongue or as a spray. Longer-lasting types can be used to prevent angina before an activity known to cause it. These may be given as pills or applied as patches or ointments.
A small, daily dose of aspirin has been shown to decrease the risk of heart attack. Ask your doctor before taking aspirin daily.
Other blood-thinning medications may be prescribed.
Beta-Blockers, Calcium-Channel Blockers, and ACE-Inhibitors TOP
These may help prevent angina. In some cases, they may lower the risk of heart attack.
Medications to Lower Cholesterol TOP
Medications, like statins, are often prescribed to people who have CAD. Statins lower cholesterol levels, which can help to prevent CAD events.
Patients with severe blockages in their coronary arteries may benefit from procedures to immediately improve blood flow to the heart muscle:
Options for Refractory Angina TOP
For patients who are not candidates for revascularization procedures, but have continued angina despite medication, options include:
To reduce your risk of getting coronary artery disease:
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada
Arora RR, Chou TM, et al. The multicenter study of enhanced external counterpulsation (MUST-EECP): effect of EECP on exercise-induced myocardial ischemia and anginal episodes. J Am Coll Cardiol. 1999;33:1833-1840.
Boden WE, O'Rourke RA, Teo KK, et al. Optimal medical therapy with or without PCI for stable coronary disease. N Engl J Med. 2007;356:1503-1516.
Coronary artery disease–Coronary heart disease. American Heart Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated September 2, 2014. Accessed September 15, 2014.
Coronary artery disease (CAD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated September 23, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
What is coronary artery disease? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated August 23, 2012. Accessed September 15, 2014.
4/10/2007 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Boden WE, O'Rourke RA, Teo KK, et al. Optimal medical therapy with or without PCI for stable coronary disease. N Engl J Med. 2007 Mar 26.
11/7/2007 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Bravata DM, Gienger AL, McDonald KM, et al. Systematic Review: The comparative effectiveness of percutaneous coronary interventions and coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Nov 20.
1/6/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Surtees PG, Wainwright NW, Luben RN, Wareham NJ, Bingham SA, Khaw KT. Depression and ischemic heart disease mortality: evidence from the EPIC-Norfolk United Kingdom prospective cohort study. Am J Psychiatry. 2008;165:515-523.
6/5/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Sinha R, Cross AJ, Graubard BI, Leitzmann MF, Schatzkin A. Meat intake and mortality: a prospective study of over half a million people. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169:562-571.
7/6/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Kodama S, Saito K, Tanaka S, et al. Cardiorespiratory fitness as a quantitative predictor of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events in healthy men and women: a meta-analysis. JAMA. 2009;301:2024-2035.
7/6/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Fung TT, Malik V, Rexrode KM, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sweetened beverage consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89:1037-1042.
2/12/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: FDA approves new indication for Crestor. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Published February 9, 2010. Accessed September 15, 2014.
11/26/2012 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Kivimaki M, Nyberg S, Batty G, et al. Job strain as a risk factor for coronary heart disease: a collaborative meta-analysis of individual participant data. Lancet. 2012 Oct 27;380(9852):1491-7.
7/21/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed...: Afshin A, Micha R, et al. Consumption of nuts and legumes and risk of incident ischemic heart disease, stroke, and diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 June 4;100(1):278-288.
9/29/2016 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com: Batelaan NM, Seldenrijk A, et al. Anxiety and new onset of cardiovascular disease: critical review and meta-analysis. Br J Psychiatry. 2016 Mar;208(3):223-231.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Last Updated: 9/15/2014