Coronary heart disease

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a major cause of death in the UK and worldwide. CHD is sometimes called ischaemic heart disease or coronary artery disease.

Symptoms of coronary heart disease (CHD)

The main symptoms of CHD are:

  • chest pain (angina)
  • heart attacks
  • heart failure

You can also have other symptoms, such as heart palpitations and unusual breathlessness. But not everyone has the same symptoms and some people may not have any before CHD is diagnosed.

Causes of coronary heart disease (CHD)

Coronary heart disease is the term that describes what happens when your heart’s blood supply is blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries.

Over time, the walls of your arteries can become furred up with fatty deposits. This process is known as atherosclerosis and the fatty deposits are called atheroma.

Atherosclerosis can be caused by lifestyle factors, such as smoking and regularly drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

You’re also more at risk of getting atherosclerosis if you have conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure (hypertension) or diabetes.

Diagnosing coronary heart disease (CHD)

If a doctor feels you’re at risk of CHD, they may carry out a risk assessment.

They’ll ask you about your medical and family history and your lifestyle, and they’ll take a blood test.

Further tests may be needed to confirm CHD, including:

  • a treadmill test
  • a radionuclide scan
  • a CT scan
  • an MRI scan
  • coronary angiography

Treating coronary heart disease (CHD)

Coronary heart disease cannot be cured but treatment can help manage the symptoms and reduce the chances of problems such as heart attacks.

Treatment can include:

  • lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and stopping smoking
  • medicines
  • angioplasty – where balloons and stents are used to treat narrow heart arteries
  • surgery

Preventing coronary heart disease (CHD)

You can reduce your risk of getting CHD by making some simple lifestyle changes.

These include:

  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • being physically active
  • giving up smoking
  • controlling blood cholesterol and sugar levels

Keeping your heart healthy will also have other health benefits, such as helping reduce your risk of stroke and dementia.