Reviewed by Andrew M. Freeman, MD, FACC, FACP

Your heart is a muscle—a very important muscle that your entire body depends on. As with all muscles, the heart is dependent on blood supply to provide necessary nutrients, fuel and oxygen. The heart gets its blood supply from the coronary arteries. When the coronary arteries become blocked, narrowed, or completely obstructed, the heart cannot get the nutrients, fuel and oxygen it needs. This can cause the heart to become weak or stop altogether or cause a heart attack. This blockage, narrowing or obstruction is known as coronary artery disease (CAD).


Who Gets Coronary Artery Disease?

CAD is the number one killer in the United States. For persons aged 40 years, the lifetime risk of developing CAD is 49 percent in men and 32 percent in women. For those reaching age 70 years, the lifetime risk is 35 percent in men and 24 percent in women. For total coronary events, the incidence rises steeply with age, with women lagging behind men by 10 years.

A variety of other factors can increase risk, including:

  • Smoking
  • Excess fats and cholesterol in the blood
  • High blood pressure
  • Excess sugar in the blood (often due to diabetes)
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