Coronary artery disease affects more than 18 million American adults, making it the most common type of heart disease. But because CAD usually progresses over many decades, you may not know you have it until it starts causing symptoms.
CAD develops when your coronary arteries, which are blood vessels supplying blood rich with nutrients and oxygen to the heart, become damaged or diseased. Most often, CAD develops from a buildup of plaque – fat, cholesterol, and other substances – that collect in the walls of the coronary artery (called atherosclerosis).
Over time, this plaque can harden, and the arteries can become narrow or blocked. When this happens, blood supply to the heart becomes restricted. As a result, the heart doesn't get the oxygen and nutrients it needs. This can lead to chest pain, heart attack, heart failure and some heart rhythm problems.
CAD is sometimes called atherosclerotic heart disease or coronary heart disease.