Visualising the rivers of the body main artery art by Joshua Dunn

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;

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:

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:


Medical procedures

Can coronary heart disease be prevented?

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

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 Check Guide to take with you to your next doctor's appointment.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years