Coronary heart disease


Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. CHD is also called coronary artery disease.


Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women.

Coronary heart disease 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.


Symptoms may be very noticeable, but sometimes 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:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will examine you. You will often need more than one test before getting a diagnosis.

Tests may include:


You may be asked to take one or more medicines to treat blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol levels. Follow your doctor's directions closely to help prevent coronary artery disease from getting worse.

Goals for treating these conditions in people who have coronary artery disease:

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 health care 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:

Outlook (Prognosis)

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.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If you have any risk factors for CHD, talk to your doctor about prevention and possible treatment steps.

Call your health care provider, call the local emergency number (such as 911), or go to the emergency room right away if you have:

Review Date: 8/12/2014
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, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.