Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death from heart disease. The condition occurs when plaque, made up of cholesterol, calcium, and fatty deposits, builds up inside heart artery walls. This hardening, or clogging, of the arteries (called atherosclerosis) restricts blood flow to the heart.

Types of coronary artery disease

There are various types of coronary artery disease, including:

Obstructive coronary artery disease

This happens when arteries that supply the heart with blood gradually begin to narrow or become blocked due to plaque buildup.

Nonobstructive coronary artery disease

This occurs when the arteries develop problems, such as inappropriate constriction, malfunctions in the branches, damaged lining, or squeezing from overlying heart muscle.

Small vessel disease

Also referred to as microvascular coronary artery disease, this is a condition where the walls of the small arteries in the heart aren’t working properly.

Signs and symptoms

People with coronary artery disease may have chest pain, known as angina. Other coronary artery disease symptoms may include shortness of breath, nausea, weakness, pain or discomfort in the arms, and decreased exercise tolerance. A complete or very severe blockage can cause a heart attack.


Coronary artery disease often begins with damage or injury to the inner layer of a coronary artery. This can start as early as childhood. Various factors can cause this damage, such as:

  • Smoking.
  • A sedentary lifestyle.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Diabetes.

Risk factors

Risk factors for coronary artery disease include:

  • Aging.
  • Genetics.
  • Smoking.
  • High cholesterol levels.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Obesity.
  • Lack of physical activity.
  • High levels of stress.
  • Unhealthy diet.


Making healthy lifestyle choices can help reduce your risk of coronary artery disease. To improve your heart health, you can:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Manage your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Manage stress.