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Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a condition in which the arteries that take blood to the heart harden and become narrow. This narrowing of the arteries (known as atherosclerosis) cuts off blood flow to the heart muscle, and can cause a heart attack. Also known as coronary heart disease (CHD) or simply heart disease, this condition is the number one killer of both women and men in America. Risk factors include having diabetes, smoking, having hypertension, and being physically inactive.

What Is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle (coronary arteries) become hardened and narrowed. The arteries harden and become narrow due to the buildup of plaque on the inner walls or lining of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Blood flow to the heart is reduced as plaque narrows the coronary arteries. This decreases the oxygen supply to the heart muscle.
Other names for coronary artery disease are:
  • CAD
  • Coronary heart disease (CHD)
  • Heart disease
  • Ischemic heart disease.


Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease (see Heart Diseases for other types of heart disease). About 13 million people in the United States have coronary artery disease. It is the number one killer of both men and women. Based on 2003 data, 685,089 people died from coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease and stroke (another cardiovascular disease) account for nearly 40 percent of all deaths.
Coronary heart disease statistics from 2004 indicate that the total number of adults in the United States living with coronary artery disease at that time was 24.7 million. This represented 11.5 percent of the population. Approximately 4.4 million people were hospitalized because of coronary artery disease, with the average hospital stay lasting 4.6 days.
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