Coronary Artery Disease Characteristics

Coronary artery disease describes a condition where the coronary arteries that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients become hardened and narrowed. This is caused by the build up of fatty deposits called plaques within the endothelial lining of the arteries.

The formation of a plaque in the artery is called atherosclerosis and the plaque is called an atheroma. Eventually, the plaque can harden the artery wall causing it to narrow, reducing the blood flow and supply of oxygen and nutrients to the heart. The plaque may also rupture, in which case a blood clot may form on its surface and almost completely prevent blood from passing through the artery. Eventually, a ruptured plaque also hardens and reduces the diameter of the artery.

These hardened and narrow arteries may lead to symptoms such as angina, a pain in the chest which may be brought about by physical activity, emotional upset or even just eating a meal. As the plaques continue to grow in size and the blood vessels narrow, the risk of obstructed blood flow and a heart attack or myocardial infarction increases. Atherosclerosis also affects other blood vessels and the risk of stroke and kidney damage is increased due to the presence of plaques in the brain and kidneys.

Patients with coronary artery disease may have one or more plaques in their coronary arteries and unless the blockages are severe, there may be no symptoms. As the blockages increase in size, however, angina may develop. In cases of suspected heart disease, a coronary angiogram may be performed to assess the state of the coronary arteries. For this test, a special dye is injected into the blood vessels and images of the heart are obtained that show how blocked the arteries are.

Typical characteristics of patients who are at high risk of coronary artery disease include:

  • Men older than 40 years
  • Postmenopausal women
  • Younger people who already have other risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure or previous history of a heart attack
  • Presence of chest pain (angina) that spreads to the left arm, neck, back, throat or jaw
  • Electrocardiogram showing ST segment depression
  • Symptoms ease when nitrates are taken

Further Reading

Last Updated: Feb 26, 2019

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2019, February 26). Coronary Artery Disease Characteristics. News-Medical. Retrieved on June 17, 2024 from

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "Coronary Artery Disease Characteristics". News-Medical. 17 June 2024. <>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "Coronary Artery Disease Characteristics". News-Medical. (accessed June 17, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2019. Coronary Artery Disease Characteristics. News-Medical, viewed 17 June 2024,


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
Mount Sinai researchers use AI to identify 17 key genes in heart disease