Coronary artery disease (CAD), also known as coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary atherosclerosis, involves the progressive narrowing of the arteries that nourish the heart muscle. Often there are no symptoms, but if one or more of these arteries become severely narrowed, angina may develop during exercise, stress, or other times when the heart muscle is not getting enough blood. Your coronary arteries are the major blood vessels that supply your heart with blood, oxygen and nutrients. When these arteries become damaged or diseased, usually due to a buildup of fatty deposits called plaques, it 's known as coronary artery disease. These deposits can slowly narrow your coronary arteries, causing your heart to receive less blood. A complete blockage, caused either by accumulated plaques or a ruptured plaque, can cause a heart attack. Because coronary artery disease often develops over decades, it can go nearly unnoticed until it produces a heart attack. Symptoms of CHD include (1) Chest pain (angina): You may feel pressure or tightness in your chest, as if someone were standing on your chest. The pain, referred to as angina, is usually triggered by physical or emotional stress. In some people, especially women, this pain may be fleeting or sharp and noticed in the abdomen, back or arm. (2) Shortness of breath: If your heart can 't pump enough blood to meet your body 's needs, you may develop shortness of breath or extreme fatigue with exertion. (3) Heart attack. If a coronary artery becomes completely blocked, you may have a heart attack. The classic symptoms of a heart attack include crushing pressure in your chest and pain in your shoulder or arm, sometimes with shortness of breath and sweating. Women are somewhat more likely than men are to experience less typical signs of a heart attack, including nausea and back or jaw pain.
Risk Factors Coronary heart disease has a lot of causes. It is thought to begin with damage or injury to the inner layer
References: 1) www.nhlbi.nih.gov -- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute 2) www.americanheart.org -- American Heart Association 3) www.acc.org -- American College of Cardiology 4) Mosca L, Banka CL, Benjamin EJ, et al. Evidence-Based Guidelines for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Women: 2007 Update. Circulation. 2007; Published online before print February 19, 2007. 5) Smith SC Jr, Allen J, Blair SN, et al. AHA/ACC guidelines for secondary prevention for patients with coronary and other atherosclerotic vascular disease: 2006 update: endorsed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Circulation. 2006 May 16;113(19):2363-72. Erratum in: Circulation. 2006 Jun 6;113(22):e847. 6) Morrow DA, Gersh BJ. Chronic coronary artery disease. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Braunwald 's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007: chap 54.