What causes heart disease?

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is caused by a build-up of plaque in the arteries. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, calcium and other substances. This process is called atherosclerosis of the arteries.

These plaque deposits slowly narrow and block the coronary arteries, causing the heart to receive less blood and oxygen. Without adequate blood flow from the coronary arteries, the heart does not receive the oxygen it needs to work properly.

Clogged arteries may cause chest pain (angina), shortness of breath or other symptoms. A completely blocked artery can result in a heart attack.

What risk factors should people be aware of?

The more risk factors for CAD a patient has, the greater the chance of developing it. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to lower the chances of developing CAD. Risk factors include:

  • Age (those of middle age and old age are at increased risk)
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Certain diseases, such as diabetes
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Stress
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • High levels of cholesterol

Source:WebMD, NIH, BHF