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What is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common form of heart disease, is caused by the buildup of fatty deposits (also known as plaque) in the arteries supplying the heart with blood and oxygen. Over time, this plaque buildup causes a narrowing or blockage in the heart arteries and decreases the amount of blood reaching the heart muscle. When plaque blocks the majority of an opening of a coronary artery, this condition is called obstructive CAD. Patients with CAD may experience chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and abdominal pain or weakness. Ultimately, decreased blood flow and oxygen to the heart can lead to a severe cardiac condition such as a heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), or even death.

While this life-threatening heart condition can be frightening, there are many tests available to help assess the risk of CAD. Some tests even account for key cardiovascular differences between men and women and may help your healthcare provider rule out CAD as the cause of your symptoms. Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of CAD and get the facts about your testing options. You can be your biggest heart advocate!