What are the Preventable Causes and Symptoms of Coronary Heart Disease?

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) develops when the arteries that supply the heart with blood become damaged. These vessels are needed to supply the heart with oxygen and pump blood out to the body to keep us alive.

They are usually damaged by a build up of fat that blocks the blood from passing through, and this results from- mainly- lifestyle choices. It is important to be aware of these preventable causes to avoid developing CAD, especially due to the death rate recently being calculated as 22.3% after surgery (Arkins, Smessaert and Hicks, 1964).

Sometimes, CAD is caused due to family history- however most of the causes are due to lifestyle choices which can be easily changed to ensure your coronary arteries are not blocked.

One general cause is inactivity. If exercise is not undertaken then resting heart rate will be lower and oxygen consumption will be lower, causing an inability to effectively deal with workload. Exercise is beneficial as it has been proven to improve myocardial perfusion (blood flow in the heart) and enlarge the coronary arteries to reduce the effect of plaque build-up (Froelicher and Oberman, 2020).

Maintaining a significantly unhealthy diet (of alcohol, cigarettes and high-fat food) contributes to developing the disease. Firstly, smoking is a predominant cause of this disease- it accounts for over 70% of CAD mortalities (Smoking and Cardiovascular Disease, Jeffrey B. Lakier, 2004). This is because it deposits plaque and toxins in the heart, referencing carbon monoxide and nicotine. Also, chemicals in cigarettes cause blood to thicken which can cause clots and an increase in blood pressure.

It’s advised to maintain a BMI not over 25 kg/m2 and limit saturated fat intake to 10% energy maximum, and a 1% energy maximum of trans fatty acids that avoid obesity. “Obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, contributes substantially and directly to cardiovascular risk” (Iestra et al., 2005). Therefore, foods to avoid eating often include processed meat, ice cream, high-fat cheese, lard and other red meats.

General symptoms: physical signs that you could be developing coronary artery disease include: angina, which is a feeling of tightness and pain in your chest; shortness of breath and high blood pressure.

These symptoms mean your heart is pumping at a faster rate to push blood around the body as the normal rate is not effective due to blockage. You should see a doctor if you present with any of these symptoms, it could be life-saving.


Milad Rouf Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.

1. Arkins, R., Smessaert, A. and Hicks, R., 1964. Mortality and Morbidity in Surgical Patients With Coronary Artery Disease. JAMA, 190(6).

2. Froelicher, V. and Oberman, A., 2020. Analysis Of Epidemiologic Studies Of Physical Inactivity As Risk Factor For Coronary Artery Disease.

3. Lakier, J. (2004) ‘Smoking and Cardiovascular Disease’ The American Joural of Medicine, Volume 93 (Issue 1), Pages s8-s12

4. Iestra, J., Kromhout, D., van der Schouw, Y., Grobbee, D., Boshuizen, H. and van Staveren, W., 2005. Effect Size Estimates of Lifestyle and Dietary Changes on All-Cause Mortality in Coronary Artery Disease Patients. Circulation, 112(6), pp.924-934.