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Your doctor will take a medical history, ask about your symptoms and listen to your heart with a stethoscope.

Your doctor also may order tests to determine whether you have coronary artery disease and to what extent. For example, doing an angiography can tell your doctor exactly how much of the inner part of the vessel is blocked.

The results of these tests can also help guide treatment decisions.

Tests may include:

  • Routine blood tests to check the level of fats, cholesterol, sugar and proteins in your blood. These are risk factors for heart disease that can be modified with lifestyle changes and, if needed, medication.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG), which records your heart's electrical activity and shows how fast or evenly the heart is beating. It can also show whether there is enough blood supply to the heart or if it is already damaged.
  • Echocardiogram to look at the structure and overall function of your heart.
  • Stress testing, which involves exercising, usually on a treadmill or stationary bike (or taking medicine to simulate exercise if you are unable to be active), to non-invasively evaluate blocked arteries in the heart.
  • Chest X-ray to look at the heart and lungs and to see if there are abnormalities that might explain your symptoms.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan of the heart that shows pictures of the heart's arteries and whether there is a buildup of plaque, even in the early stages before the plaque hardens.
  • Coronary angiography is done in the cardiac catheterization laboratory, and involves threading a thin tube or catheter into an artery, usually in the wrist or leg, and up to the heart. The test goes into the body to directly evaluate the arteries of the heart. It usually is recommended when a non-invasive test is abnormal or a patient's symptoms strongly suggest CAD.

What Do the Results Mean?

Your doctor might tell you that you have "less than 70% blockage in an artery." That means that you have non-obstructive CAD. In other words, blood flow to the heart muscle is not reduced at rest, but may be limited during intense exercise or exertion. In this case, risk reduction through lifestyle and medication is the best treatment.

Or your doctor might say you have "over 70% blockage in one artery." This means that you have severe blockages in both coronary arteries. Blood flow to the heart muscle is significantly reduced and would likely explain any chest pain or shortness of breath you may have been feeling. In this case, your doctor might recommend more aggressive medical treatment, and possibly recommend a procedure or surgery.

Degree of CADHow much the artery is blocked
MildLess than 49%
Moderate50%-70%
SevereMore than 70%

  • Last Edited 06/30/2016