What is Coronary Artery Disease?

Older man smiling and holding a red paper heart.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

Coronary Artery Disease is the damage or blocking of the major arteries that deliver blood to the heart. It is also the leading cause of death in the United States.¹ Coronary arteries are the tubes that blood flows through, delivering oxygen rich blood to the heart. The most common cause of CAD is due to  the buildup of fatty deposits or cholesterol called plaque. The plaque that builds up over time limits the flow of blood through the coronary arteries and into the heart. Like any other muscle, the heart needs blood to stay alive. When the tubes that supply this blood stop working well, the heart also stops working well.

What Your Heart Does For You

Your heart is always working hard. Whether if you are sleeping, working, or spending time with your family, your heart is pumping blood to all parts of your body. Blood contains oxygen and important nutrients that your body needs to be healthy. Your heart also needs blood to keep it alive. Help your heart by learning how to take care of it.

How Can Coronary Artery Disease Affect Me?

Atherosclerosis and plaque accumulation can begin to develop at an early age. As time progresses, this can continue to spread into the coronary arteries. Noticeable effects of CAD may not be experienced until later in life. However, it is very important to be aware of the risks before any symptoms become noticeable so you can take preventive measures (see below).

CAD can cause serious effects on your heart and other organs. These consequences may take the form of additional heart-related issues such as a heart attack, angina, heart failure, or abnormal heart rhythm. Acute coronary syndrome is characterized by a process which critically reduces blood supply to the heart muscle, which also involves the formation of plaque in the coronary arteries. Be sure to talk with your doctor about your risk of developing CAD and how you can reduce your risk.

Younger doctor in lab coat discussing diagnosis to older patient.

What Can I do to Prevent Coronary Artery Disease?

There are many preventive measures against CAD. These mostly take the form of healthy behaviors that can be started at any time. Turning these behaviors into habits that define your lifestyle will give you the best chances to prevent CAD from turning into a serious acute syndrome. These behaviors include:

  • Exercising regularly/staying active
  • Eating a fruit and vegetable heavy diet
  • Avoiding excess salt and fat
  • Effectively coping with stress
  • Avoid smoking

Working these behaviors into your routine can also help to manage symptoms of CAD if you are at risk. Be sure to consult your physician about your heart health.

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Risk Factors For Coronary Artery Disease


Blue icon of older couple illustrating that age is a risk factor for Coronary Artery Disease.

Aging increases your risk of having CAD. It becomes even more of a concern after the age of 65. Forming healthy habits as early as possible can help keep you healthier for longer.


Blue gender icons illustrating that men are typically at greater risk for Coronary Artery Disease.

Men have a greater risk of CAD and CAD related issues than women. Women are still at risk, especially after Menopause. The difference in risk equals out at age 70.²

Family History

Blue family tree icon illustrating that family history of heart disease is a risk factor for Coronary Artery Disease.

Parents or siblings with CAD, especially before the age of 50, will increase your risk for also developing CAD. If this is true for your family, talk to your doctor about preventive measures that are right for you.