What is coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease is one of the leading forms of heart disease and in severe cases leads to a heart attack.

Coronary artery disease is largely preventable, with 80% of the risk of heart attacks being caused by risk factors you can control.

Coronary artery disease is a chronic condition that progresses over time, a substance called plaque builds up in the blood vessels that supply your heart with oxygen. Over time the plaque build up leads to your blood vessels become narrowed or in severe cases blocked. The narrowing or blocking of your arteries reduces the amount of oxygen that can reach your heart muscles leading you to experience symptoms.


Coronary artery disease - Heart Health - South West - Cardio Vascular

What are the symptoms of coronary artery disease?

In the early stages of CAD you might not have an symptoms, but as your disease progresses and less oxygen is able to reach you heart you may experience:

  • Chest Pain, also known as angina
  • Shortness of breath during exertion
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheaded
  • Sweating
  • Heart attack when a vessel becomes fully blocked.


How is coronary artery disease treated?

Lifestyle modification:

  • Not smoking
  • 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each day
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Reducing stress

Medication to treat manageable conditions known to increase your risk:

  • Managing your cholesterol – a key part of stabilising the plaque already present in your arteries and reducing disease progression
  • Controlling your blood pressure – Maintaining your blood pressure below the target set for you
  • Diabetes – a significant impact on your overall risk, well controlled diabetes can lead to better long term heart outcomes.


Aspirin or other medications known as antiplatelets will be prescribed for you if you meet certain criteria.

In severe cases you may be recommended to undergo a procedure known as percutaneous coronary intervention or “stenting” to open you severely narrowed or blocked arteries.

What are the risks of leaving coronary artery disease untreated?

  • Heart attack – When a plaque ruptures and forms a blood clot. Blood flow is blocked, damaging your heart muscle.
  • Heart failure –Narrowed arteries or experiencing a heart attack can make the heart weak or stiff. This reduces your heart’s ability to pump effectively.
  • Irregular heart rhythms – the electrical signalling of your heart can become disrupted.

When was your last check up?

If you are concerned about your heart health, see your GP to check your cholesterol levels and have a full heart health check.