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Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
by Michelle Badash, MS
CAD is a progressive condition, and symptoms may not appear for some time. It is possible to not know you have CAD until the condition has significantly progressed and complications appear. Over time, CAD may lead to:
Angina is the most common symptom of CAD. It is described as chest pain or discomfort with a squeezing or pressure-like quality, usually felt behind the breastbone, but sometimes felt in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaws, or back. Angina is an indicator that your heart is not getting all the oxygen it needs to keep working at its optimal level. People who have angina are at an increased risk of having a heart attack.
Types of angina include:
CAD can eventually lead to severe complications such as:
Differences Between Angina and a Heart Attack TOP
Having angina, especially for the first time, may be frightening. People may mistake it for having a heart attack or mistakenly think it is heartburn. A stable pattern of angina does not necessarily mean a heart attack is about to occur. Some differences include:
Note of Caution
If you experience chest pain that is new, worsening, or persistent, call for emergency medical services right away . Do not try to determine for yourself if the pain is due to angina, a heart attack, or some less serious condition. Do not drive yourself to the hospital. Heart attacks can cause severe, permanent damage to the heart, or death. Seeking help quickly is important because some of the most effective treatments to increase survival and recovery are ideally given within the first hour after symptoms begin. Emergency medical service personnel give these treatments while on the way to the hospital. About half of all deaths due to heart attack happen within one hour of the start of symptoms, often before a person gets to the hospital.
Associated Conditions TOP
Build up of plaque and damage to blood vessels rarely occurs in the heart's blood vessels alone. Blood vessel damage in other areas of the body may lead to other conditions such as:
These conditions are sometimes warning signs of blood vessel problems that contribute to CAD.
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Coronary heart disease. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/coronary-heart-disease. Accessed March 5, 2018.
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Warning signs of a heart attack. American Heart Association website. Available at:
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Updated January 11, 2018. Accessed March 5, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 3/15/2015
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