Causes of Coronary Heart Disease

One Coronary Heart Disease is a condition called atherosclerosis. The condition occurs when fatty material called plaque builds up in your arteries. The plaque causes the arteries to narrow which decreases blood flow to the heart, which can slow the heart down, or even stop it. The blockage of arteries causes chest pain, shortness of breath, and can cause a heart attack.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a leading cause of death for both men and women. In the U.S. approximately 15 million individuals have some form of coronary heart disease. Males in their forties have a higher risk of CHD than women.


There are many causes for CHD including diabetes, high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, menopause, or those who do not get enough physical activity, obesity, or smoking.

Another cause of heart disease is higher-than-normal levels of inflammation-related substances such as C-reactive protein and fibrinogen, which may increase your risk for having a heart attack.


Symptoms of heart disease include chest pain, or a discomfort (angina) in the chest region. The heart not receiving enough blood or oxygen causes the pain or discomfort. There are two types of pain that can be experienced during heart disease – atypical chest pain and typical chest pain.

Atypical chest pain is sharp and comes and goes. This atypical chest pain can be felt in other places besides your chest such as in your arm, abdomen or back. The pain is NOT related to exercise and is not relieved when you take a medication called nitroglycerin, or by resting. Women more commonly experience atypical pain.

Typical chest pain feels like heaviness on your chest or like someone is squeezing you. You feel this heaviness under your breastbone. The discomfort occurs with activity or when you are in a highly emotional situation and goes away with rest or when you receive nitroglycerin.

Adults experiencing chest pain have a higher risk of CHD that those who have atypical chest pain. Other symptoms that you may experience when you are experiencing either atypical chest pain or typical chest pain are shortness of breath, or when you actually have a heart attack.


If you are experiencing any kind of chest pain or discomfort your doctor will run tests to determine if your symptoms are heart related. These tests include an electrocardiogram (ECG), and exercise stress test, an echocardiogram, a nuclear scan, a coronary angiography/arteriography, an electron-beam computer tomography (EBCT), a coronary CT angiography, or a magnetic resonance angiography.


If you are found to have CHD the treatment will depend on the symptoms you are having and how severe the disease has progressed. If you have been found to have CHD but do not have any symptoms (sometimes it is discovered during a routine exam), you may be treated with medication or angioplasty with stenting. Angioplasty with stenting can reduce angina or other symptoms of CHD. If you are having a heart attack angioplasty with stenting can save your life.

Medications used to treat CHD include ACE inhibitors which help to lower blood pressure, blood thinners (antiplatelet drugs) which are used to reduce your risk of blood clots occurring, beta-blockers which are used to lower your heart rate, blood pressure, and your oxygen use by the heart, calcium channel blockers which are used to relax your arteries, lower your blood pressure, and to reduce the strain put on your heart. Diuretics may also be used to further reduce your blood pressure, and nitroglycerin is used to stop chest pain and to improve your blood supply to your heart. Statins are used to lower cholesterol.

Intervention and Surgery

Percutaneous Coronary Interventions, or PCIs such as angioplasty and stenting are used to treat and diagnose CHD along with coronary atherectomy and coronary radiation implants and coronary brachytherapy.

Sometimes surgery is used to treat CHD and include coronary artery bypass surgery and other minimally invasive heart surgeries.

Lifestyle changes that can have a positive impact on those with heart disease are avoiding or reducing sodium intake, eating a low fat, low cholesterol, and no trans fat diet, getting regular exercise, and learning how to maintain a healthy weight for your height.

If a diabetic it is important to control your blood sugar for many reasons but high sugar contributes to heart disease so diabetics can reduce their heart disease risk by managing their blood glucose level. It is also important to stop smoking if you currently smoke because smoking can increase your risk for heart disease.

See Also:

Treatment for Heart Failure
Stages of Heart Disease