Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a type of heart disease, and can lead to heart attacks (myocardial infarction). CAD is a narrowing of the arteries of the heart, usually due to the formation of a plaque in the artery. Most people with CAD are asymptomatic until the blockages become severe enough to limit the amount of blood that can pass through the arteries.
There are many factors which can lead to the development of CAD. Common risk factors include:
- A family member with heart disease
- High-cholesterol/High-fat diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High blood pressure
When the blockage becomes severe, your heart muscle will not receive enough blood, and you may develop symptoms. Common symptoms are chest pain, chest heaviness, pain in your arm or jaw, nausea, or upset stomach. CAD can lead to a heart attack when the blockage becomes unstable. It is often difficult to distinguish between myocardial ischemia (when you heart is not getting enough blood temporarily) and myocardial infarction (when the heart muscle becomes injured due to lack of blood flow). Blood tests and an angiogram may be used to diagnose and treat CAD.