Coronary Heart Disease 

What is Coronary Heart Disease? 

Coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease occurs when the major blood vessels that supply your heart with blood, oxygen and nutrients become damaged or diseased.

The arteries become damaged when there is a cholesterol build-up, which eventually turns into plaque. This narrows the arteries and decreases blood flow to your heart. If coronary artery disease is not treated and an artery becomes completely or even partially blocked, it will often result in a heart attack.

What are the symptoms of coronary heart disease?

The most common symptoms of coronary heart disease include; 

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart attack

These symptoms can arise when your coronary artery narrows and is unable to supply enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart. 

What are the causes of coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease is commonly caused by a build-up of plaque in the walls of the arteries of the heart. Research shows that coronary heart disease begins when the inner layers of the coronary arteries are damaged.  This can be caused by;

If the inner walls of an artery are damaged, a plaque build-up (made up of cholesterol) will accumulate where the artery has been injured. This process is called atherosclerosis. Overtime, the plaque will harden. If the plaque ruptures, blood cells called platelets will try to repair the injured section but may clump together and cause a blood clot, which can lead to a heart attack

How is coronary artery disease diagnosed? 

In order to diagnose coronary heart disease, a doctor will ask questions about your personal and family medical history, order blood tests and conduct a physical examination. Further testing may be required which can include: 

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Stress test
  • Cardiac catheterization or angiogram
  • Heart scan 

How is coronary heart disease treated?

If you are diagnosed with coronary heart disease your doctor may advise you to make lifestyle changes. Depending on the severity, you may also need to take certain medications or have a procedure to improve the problem.

Lifestyle changes:

  • Quit smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce stress


  • Cholesterol managing drugs including statins
  • Aspirin
  • Beta blockers
  • Sublingual spray to dilute blood vessels
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)

Medical procedures

  • Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) - angioplasty and stent insertion
  • Coronary artery bypass surgery

Can coronary heart disease be prevented?

To reduce the likelihood of developing coronary heart disease, you can do the following:

  • Keep your blood pressure in check
  • Monitor your cholesterol level and take medication if it is high
  • Remain in a healthy weight range
  • Quit smoking
  • Manage stress levels
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly

There are some risk factors of coronary heart disease that cannot be controlled. These include age, gender and family history. It is important to find out whether you have a family history of coronary heart disease and have regular check-ups with your doctor if you do.

Ask your doctor for a heart health check which looks at the key risk signs. Download our Heart Health Risk Assessment Guide to take with you to your next doctor's appointment.

Download your Assessment Guide

Research into Coronary Heart Disease

Learn about other heart diseases