Coronary artery disease affects the coronary arteries, all of which supply the heart with vital oxygen and nutrients that it requires to carry out its pumping action.

The most common cause of coronary artery disease is a build up of cholesterol, fat and other substances in the blood, on the inner surface of these arteries.

This is known as atherosclerosis (pronounced ath-er-o-skler-o-sis). Over a period of time this atherosclerosis can cause a narrowing of the artery and sometimes block it completely. When this narrowing or blockage occurs, blood flow to the area of the heart supplied by that artery will be reduced or stop altogether.

This part of the heart then becomes deprived of oxygen, which is called ischemia (pronounced iss-keem-e-a). During this time pain may be experienced. This is known as angina.

If this part of the heart continues to be deprived of oxygen, it will die. This could reduce the pumping action of the heart and it will not be able to supply the body with oxygen. This is very serious.

Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease
Risk factors for coronary artery disease.There are several risk factors that are known to contribute to coronary artery disease. These are split into 2 groups; controllable and uncontrollable. The risk factors are summarized in the following table

High cholesterol Age
High blood pressure Gender
Excess body weight Family history
Poor diet
Lack of exercise

Research shows the benefits of reducing the controllable risk factors for atherosclerosis:

  • High blood cholesterol (especially LDL or “bad” cholesterol over 100 mg/dL)
  • Cigarette smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity

Research also suggests that inflammation in the circulating blood may play an important role in triggering heart attacks and strokes. Inflammation is the body’s response to injury, and blood clotting is often part of that response. Blood clots can slow down or stop blood flow in the arteries.