Coronary Artery Disease – An Overview

Coronary Artery Disease, often abbreviated CAD, is the most common type of heart disease in adults. Therefore, it is very important to learn what CAD is, note the predisposing factors for CAD, as well as how to reduce your risk for developing CAD.

First, what are coronary arteries? Since the heart is itself a muscle, it needs oxygen to function like all your other muscles. Coronary arteries are the arteries that supply oxygenated blood to your heart muscle. When these arteries become diseased, it is known as coronary artery disease (CAD). In the US, the most common cause of cardiovascular disease is atherosclerosis. This term means an abnormal accumulation of fatty substances and fibrous tissues in the lining of arterial walls. The continued development of atherosclerosis causes an inflammatory response, brought on by injury to the artery. This injury may be caused by a variety of factors including smoking, hypertension, and other factors.

Atherosclerosis produces symptoms and complications based on the location and degree of blockage that is formed. A person experiences chest pain (angina pectoris) and shortness of breath when these arteries become severely blocked and the heart is deprived of blood flow and oxygen. When the heart is starved of oxygen for a prolonged period of time, a person may experience a heart attack, known as a myocardial infarction (MI), and even sudden cardiac death.

Risk factors for coronary artery disease include elevated blood lipid levels (hyperlipidemia), smoking, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity, family history, and age. Four modifiable risk factors (cholesterol, smoking, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus) have been identified to decrease your risk for developing CAD.