Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the narrowing of coronary arteries. These are the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. The condition is also called coronary heart disease (CHD).
CAD is usually caused by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the buildup of plaque inside the coronary arteries. These plaques are made up of fatty deposits and fibrous tissue.
Atherosclerosis can significantly narrow the coronary arteries. This decreases the blood supply to the heart muscle. It triggers a type of chest pain called angina.
Atherosclerosis also can cause a blood clot to form inside a narrowed coronary artery. This causes a heart attack. A heart attack can significantly damage the heart muscle.
The risk factors for atherosclerosis and CAD are basically the same. These risk factors include:
High blood cholesterol level
High level of LDL (bad) cholesterol
Low level of HDL (good) cholesterol
High blood pressure (hypertension)
Family history of CAD at a younger age
CAD is the most common chronic, life-threatening illness in most of the world's developed nations.