Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Tests For Diagnosing Coronary Artery Disease

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Coronary artery disease is one of the most common heart conditions affecting adults. It is one of the leading causes of death in United States of America and is known as one of the most dangerous lifestyle related diseases. Coronary artery disease is a condition in which the coronary artery that supplies blood to the heart becomes constricted. As these blood vessels become narrowed and hardened, the blood reaching your heart muscle is severely compromised. Usually, this occurs due to increasing cholesterol deposits on the arterial walls, due to which the arteries become narrower. As smaller amounts of blood reach the heart muscles, it gets less amounts of oxygen, and this can eventually lead to chest pains and heart attacks. The cholesterol deposits on the arterial walls can often break off and these clots can block the arteries. This could prevent nutrition from reaching heart muscles, leading to permanent heart damage.

Tests Recommended

Coronary artery disease tests can be performed to diagnose your exact condition and the extent to which it is harmful. There is a screening test after which other tests are also prescribed. Some of the first tests are a coronary angiography and a cardiac catheterization, which is known as an arteriography. This is an invasive test in which a dye is injected into your arteries to check the flow of your blood. Angiography can also be performed in a noninvasive manner, using a CT angiography machine.An echocardiogram may be given using an echocardiography machine. EKG (electrocardiogram), also known as ECG would also be performed. There is also stress testing in which the functioning of your heart is checked under stress from exercise. Most of these tests are performed at rest as well as stress. Blood tests are performed to check sugar and cholesterol levels in your blood. To look for signs and traces of calcium in the lining of your blood vessels, electron beam computed tomography may be used. Other tests include nuclear stress test, heart CT scan, and magnetic resonance angiography.


The main coronary heart disease causes are buildup of cholesterol and plaque on the arterial walls. When the arterial walls become narrowed, it is known as hardening. The plaque on the arterial walls is made from fatty materials such as cholesterol. This risk of plaque buildup increases with age. Smoking may also increase the risk of clogging the arteries. When there are high levels of fats and cholesterol in the blood, it too can lead to plaque buildup on the arterial walls. Some of the other high risk factors that cause coronary artery disease include high blood pressure, high levels of sugar, obesity, chronic kidney disease, and your gender. African Americans, Native Americans, Hawaiians, and Asians are more prone to developing the condition as compared to Caucasians. Studies have also shown that men are more prone to developing various heart disorders than women. This disease may also have genetic connections.


Coronary artery disease symptoms are usually very easy to identify. However, in rare cases, you may be suffering from the disease without having any of the defining symptoms. One of the first signs of this disease is angina or chest pain. This usually occurs when the heart is not able to get enough amounts of oxygen as well as blood. Some people may have only very slight pains, while others may experience severe pain in their chest. At their worst, the chest pains may seem as if your heart is being squeezed hard. The pain may often radiate to your upper body including your neck, arms, and upper back. Some people may experience the pain in their stomach and abdominal regions as well. The pain may intensify with activity or when you are experiencing intense emotions. Some of the other symptoms of coronary artery disease include arrhythmia, shortness of breath, fatigue with exertion, and in extreme conditions, heart attack or heart failure. Some people have an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease than others. Obese people, elderly people, menopausal women, and diabetics are the ones who are more prone to developing various heart diseases such as coronary heart disease.


Coronary artery disease treatment requires long-term medicinal use along with therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC). The basic goal of the treatment is to lower blood pressure and make lifestyle changes to control your blood sugar and cholesterol. You may also be prescribed to follow a healthy diet along with a regular exercise routine. Dieticians have taken out certain dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH), and you could consult a doctor to check your options. You should also be physically active if you are not able to exercise regularly. Doctors will most likely ask you to maintain a healthy weight, quit smoking, and manage stress. You will also have to continue taking your medications for the prescribed period. The doctor may ask you to get intermediary tests to check how your treatment is working. In severe cases, angioplasty may be resorted to. Other treatments include coronary artery bypass grafting and cardiac rehabilitation.