Coronary heart disease is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is also called coronary artery disease.
CHD is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women.
CHD is caused by the buildup of plaque in the arteries to your heart. This may also be called hardening of the arteries.
A risk factor for heart disease is something that increases your chance of getting it. You cannot change some risk factors for heart disease, but you can change others.
In some cases, symptoms may be very noticeable. But, you can have the disease and not have any symptoms. This is more often true in the early stages of heart disease.
Chest pain or discomfort (angina) is the most common symptom. You feel this pain when the heart is not getting enough blood or oxygen. The pain may feel different from person to person.
Some people have symptoms other than chest pain, such as:
Your health care provider will examine you. You will often need more than one test before getting a diagnosis.
Tests to evaluate for CHD may include:
You may be asked to take one or more medicines to treat blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol levels. Follow your provider's directions closely to help prevent CHD from getting worse.
Goals for treating these conditions in people who have CHD:
Treatment depends on your symptoms and how severe the disease is. You should know about:
Never stop taking your medicines without first talking to your provider. Stopping heart medicines suddenly can make your angina worse or cause a heart attack.
You may be referred to a cardiac rehabilitation program to help improve your heart's fitness.
Procedures and surgeries used to treat CHD include:
Everyone recovers differently. Some people can stay healthy by changing their diet, stopping smoking, and taking their medicines as prescribed. Others may need medical procedures such as angioplasty or surgery.
In general, early detection of CHD generally leads to a better outcome.
If you have any risk factors for CHD, talk to your provider about prevention and possible treatment steps.
Call your provider, call the local emergency number (such as 911), or go to the emergency room right away if you have:
Take these steps to help prevent heart disease.
Even if you already have heart disease, taking these steps will help protect your heart and prevent further damage.
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.