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Coronary Artery Disease

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Most simply put, coronary artery disease is an excessive buildup of plaque in the vessels flowing to the heart. Sometimes referred to as CAD, coronary artery disease is the leading cause of heart attack and the most common type of heart disease. In recent years, coronary heart disease has been credited as the leading cause of death worldwide.

Coronary artery disease begins as early as childhood, when the blood vessels walls begin to become lined with fat from cholesterol. As a person ages, fat continues to build up and bonds with other waste materials present in the blood to form a hardened material called plaque. When plaque forms a wall along the lining of the coronary arteries it can cause a series of problems for the heart. As the plaque wall becomes damaged, the body attempts to heal the wall with blood clots. These clots can block the flow of blood to the heart causing heart attack and can cause the artery to squeeze out of sync. While the development of coronary artery disease can begin at a young age, the condition can be prevented. Most risk factors that lead to coronary artery disease can be managed and severe CAD can be avoided with healthy lifestyle choices.


Many people who develop coronary artery disease have no symptoms while the disease progresses over the years. Heart attack is often the first symptom these people experience.

Other symptoms may include chest pain or discomfort, fatigue, shortness of breath, sweating and possibly palpitations.

Please note chest pain may be an indication you are having a heart attack. Please seek immediate care for chest pain, especially if pain is sudden and severe.

Causes and Risk Factors

Plaque deposits that restrict blood flow cause coronary artery disease. Some risk factors cannot be managed, including age, gender and generic conditions. CAD more typically affects men over 55 and women over 65.  Family history of heart disease can also make some people more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease. 

Risk factors for coronary artery disease are well documented. Some of the most common risk factors leading to heart disease include the following:

  • Aging
  • Diabetes
  • Hereditary heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Stress

Treatment Options

Treatment options can vary on the person and the severity of the coronary artery disease. Outside of the treatments your doctor can provide, making healthy lifestyle choices can be a very effective change to prevent and help manage coronary artery disease. Heart health can be improved by quitting smoking, getting regular exercise, reducing stress and losing excess weight.

Other treatment options may include medication and surgery. The surgeons at Cardiac Surgery Associates of Tampa are trained in the most advanced surgical methods available to treat coronary artery disease. If surgery is the best option for you, our surgeons can best advise which procedure might be best for you.  Read more about some of the bypass and angioplasty options available in the Procedures We Perform section of this site.

If you or someone you love is in need of a consultation for coronary artery disease, please contact our office to setup a consultation. We can be reached by phone at 813.910.0027 or you can request an appointment online