Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary Heart Disease What Is Coronary Heart Disease?

Doctor listening to a patient's heart with a stethoscopeHeart disease is a catch-all phrase for a variety of conditions that affect the heart’s structure and how it works. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Coronary heart disease is a type of heart disease where the arteries of the heart cannot deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart. It is also sometimes called coronary artery disease or ischemic heart disease. About 20.5 million U.S. adults have coronary artery disease, making it the most common type of heart disease in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Coronary artery disease affects the larger coronary arteries on the surface of the heart. Another type of heart disease, called coronary microvascular disease, affects the tiny arteries within the heart muscle. Coronary microvascular disease is more common in women.

The cause of coronary heart disease depends on the type. Coronary artery disease is often caused by cholesterol, a waxy substance that builds up inside the lining of the coronary arteries, forming plaque. This plaque buildup can partially or totally block blood flow in the large arteries of the heart. Coronary microvascular disease occurs when there is damage to the inner walls of the heart’s small blood vessels. For most people, coronary heart disease is preventable with a heart-healthy lifestyle and medications.

Symptoms of coronary heart disease may be different from person to person even if they have the same type of coronary heart disease. However, because many people have no symptoms, they do not know they have coronary heart disease until they have chest pain; blood flow to the heart is blocked, causing a heart attack; or the heart suddenly stops pumping blood, also known as cardiac arrest.

If you have coronary heart disease, you may need heart-healthy lifestyle changes, medicines, surgery, or a combination of these approaches to manage your condition and prevent serious problems.

Know the Difference fact sheet

Know the Difference Fact Sheet

Learn basic facts about coronary heart disease.

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