Health and Wellness

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD): Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Treatments

Coronary Heart Disease: An Introduction  Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is one of the most common types of heart disease. In CHD, the main coronary arteries are affected, resulting in reduced or…

Coronary Heart Disease: An Introduction 

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is one of the most common types of heart disease. In CHD, the main coronary arteries are affected, resulting in reduced or blocked blood flow. Hence, it is also known as coronary artery disease (CAD). The disease develops over many years, from childhood to adulthood. 

As per the studies published by the National Library of Medicine, Indians are known to have the highest Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) rates. Indians are liable to get hospitalised 2-4 times more frequently due to the complications caused by coronary artery disease. (Published Article

This article discusses coronary heart disease, including its symptoms, causes, prevention and possible treatments. 

What is Coronary Heart Disease?

Our heart requires oxygen-rich blood to function like any other part of the body. The coronary arteries supply blood high in oxygen to the heart with small branches. Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is when the coronary arteries become narrowed by fatty deposits (called plaque) within the innermost layer. 

Over time, plaque buildup (fat, cholesterol, and other substances) can become so dense and thick that it can decrease or block blood flow and restrict the heart from getting enough oxygen and nutrient-rich blood. A significant decrease in blood flow to the heart can cause chest pain (called angina), and a complete blockage of the blood flow may cause a heart attack or damage to the heart tissue. 

Key Facts: 

  • Coronary heart disease is one of the most common heart diseases in India. 
  • It is also known as coronary artery disease.
  • CHD affects the main blood vessel carrying oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. 
  • The main reason for developing CHD is plaque buildup in the coronary arteries, making it narrowed or blocked.  
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue are the major symptoms. While they may differ from person to person.
  • Smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes are the major risk factors.

How is It Different from Normal Health Conditions? 

Coronary Heart Disease differs from normal health conditions in several significant ways, particularly in terms of its impact on the heart and overall cardiovascular system. Let’s understand some of the major differences with the help of the table below:


Coronary Heart Disease

Normal Health

Arterial Health

narrowed or blocked

clear and flexible

Blood Flow

reduced or obstructed, leading to ischemia (reduced blood supply)

adequate to supply necessary oxygen and nutrients

Heart Function

difficulty in heart pumping

pumps efficiently


chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, fatigue, palpitations; in severe cases, heart attack

no symptoms related to reduced blood flow or heart function

Long-Term Outlook

when left untreated, CHD can lead to serious complications

positive, with a lower risk of developing heart-related complications

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Coronary Heart Disease?

Coronary heart disease (CHD) can be silent, from having no symptoms to severe chest pain. While for many individuals, the initial symptoms of CHD may include the following: 

  • Chest pain (angina) that may feel like pressure, tightness, aching, or squeezing
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Heartburn
  • Pain in jaw, shoulder, back, or arms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling faint
  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Cold sweats

Potential Problems Coronary Heart Disease Can Cause 

Coronary heart disease may cause the following complications in an individual: 

Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmia): When the heart doesn’t get enough blood, changes in heart signalling can occur, leading to irregular heartbeats. 

Chest pain (angina): Chest pain is the initial symptom of CHD caused by narrowed arteries and a lack of oxygen-rich blood. 

Heart failure: Narrowed arteries can cause pressure on the heart, making it stiff or weak and harder to pump blood. 

Heart attack: Significant chance of heart attack if a blood clot is caused due to the plaque building blocking the blood flow. 

Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors

The build-up of plaque is the main cause of coronary heart disease and can take years to develop. Except for that, certain risk factors may play a major role in developing CHD, including:

Risk factors you can control: 

  • Smoking 
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Excess stress
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of sleep
  • Diabetes mellitus

Risk factors you cannot control: 

  • Age
  • Birth sex (men are more prone to develop heart disease than women)
  • Family history

Other risk factors: 

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Increase in high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP)
  • High triglycerides (especially in women)
  • High levels of homocysteine
  • Preeclampsia during pregnancy
  • Other pregnancy complications
  • Certain autoimmune disorders

It is important to note that one risk factor may trigger another. An individual experiencing more than one risk factor is more likely to develop coronary heart disease. 

How is Coronary Heart Disease Diagnosed?

Certain physical examinations and tests are performed to diagnose the coronary heart disease, including the following: 

Blood Test: to assess the risk, presence, and severity of CHD

MRI and Scans: to measure different aspects of the heart and blood vessels to identify abnormalities

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): to record the electrical activity of the heart and detect any irregularities in the heart rhythms and heart muscle defects

Stress Test: records the heart activities, including the breathing and blood pressure rates while exercising

Cardiac Catheterisation: to locate the narrowing, blockages, and other problems 

Nuclear Scanning: to identify the healthy and damaged areas of the heart 

What are Coronary Heart Disease Treatments?

At an early stage, when experiencing mild symptoms, coronary heart disease can be treated by opting for a healthy lifestyle and medications. Let’s look at the possible treatments of this disease:

Heart-Healthy Lifestyle: 

  • Take a regular diet rich in vegetables, fats, proteins, whole grains, little or no added sugars
  • Having enough sleep of almost 7-9 hours 
  • Regular exercise 
  • No or moderate consumption of alcohol
  • Stress management


After consulting with your healthcare provider, you can take the following medications, if necessary: 

  • Antihypertensives to manage blood pressure 
  • Statins to manage cholesterol
  • Antiplatelets to decrease blood clotting
  • Antihyperlipidemic to lower the lipids in the blood 


  • Balloon Angioplasty: to create a bigger opening in the vessel to open the blocked area
  • Coronary Artery Stent: to open the blocked area and left in place to keep the artery open
  • Atherectomy: to cut away the blocked area 
  • Laser Angioplasty: to vaporise the blockage 
  • Coronary Artery Bypass: to create a bypass above and below the blocked area of a coronary artery

How to Prevent the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease?

The first thing to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease is to identify the risk factors and whether they can be controlled. Knowing about them and discussing them openly with your healthcare provider to monitor their effects regularly is beneficial. Follow the given instructions to reduce the risk of CHD:

  • Track your blood pressure and cholesterol levels so you can take essential steps to lower or control them on time. 
  • Make a plan to quit smoking tobacco products 
  • Make a weight control plan in case you are overweight
  • Keep the blood sugar level in control if diagnosed with diabetes mellitus
  • Lower/ control high blood pressure

Individuals are not aware that they have CHD until they experience any symptoms. The coronary heart disease symptoms include chest pain and having a heart attack. If you are 45 years or older, you should arrange a consultation with a healthcare provider on experiencing any of the symptoms. 

Did you know many health insurance plans are available that cover expenses incurred under preventive health checkups? Connect with RenewBuy POSP advisors and get detailed information about the health plans in India covering various heart health conditions and keeping you financially secure against a medical emergency due to coronary heart disease. 

* Disclaimer: The details, facts, or figures given here are intended solely for the reader's informational purposes and should not be relied upon for personal, medical, legal, or financial decisions. Please visit the insurer's website for the latest updates. We do not endorse any particular insurance company or insurance product provided by any insurer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I have coronary heart disease if my parents have it?

  1. Genetics are not always a surety of having coronary heart disease but can work as a risk factor. If one of the parents has premature CAD, then your chances of developing the condition are higher. We recommend you consult a healthcare professional about your history and possible complications. 

What is coronary heart disease?

  1. Coronary heart disease develops when the coronary arteries supplying oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle are blocked or interrupted by plaque buildup. 

Can coronary heart disease be treated?

  1. The disease can be effectively managed by combining preventive measures and treatments, including lifestyle changes, medicine, and surgery. By identifying the symptoms of CHD at the right time, they can be reduced, and the functioning of the heart can be improved. 

Can you live a long life with coronary heart disease?

  1. Year after year, the build-up may increase and narrow the arteries slowly. Initially, it may cause mild to no symptoms but can develop severe. 

What are the 3 types of coronary heart disease?

  1. The types of CHD include: 
  • Obstructive coronary artery disease
  • Nonobstructive coronary artery disease
  • Spontaneous coronary artery dissection

What are the main symptoms of coronary heart disease?

  1. Common symptoms of CHD include chest pain or discomfort (angina), shortness of breath, fatigue, and sometimes, a heart attack. Some people may also experience pain in the arms, neck, jaw, or back.

What causes coronary heart disease?

  1. The primary cause is the buildup of fatty deposits, or plaques, in the coronary arteries. The risk factors include high cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and a sedentary lifestyle.

How can I reduce my risk of coronary heart disease?

  1. You can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, such as: 
  • Eat a balanced diet low in saturated fats, 
  • Exercise regularly, 
  • Avoid tobacco, 
  • Limit alcohol, 
  • Manage stress,
  • Regular check-ups with your doctor.

What are the complications of untreated coronary heart disease?

  1. Untreated coronary heart disease can lead to serious complications such as heart attacks, heart failure, arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), and sudden cardiac death.


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