Coronary artery disease is a condition that affects an estimated 16 million Americans. Coronary artery disease or CAD (also known as coronary heart disease or CHD) occurs when a fatty substance called plaque starts collecting in the arteries that lead to the heart, threatening the hearts blood supply and setting the stage for a potential heart attack. The disease killed more than 450,000 people in 2004, making it the leading cause of death in the United States.
Coronary artery disease remains our biggest threat, but its also one of medicines biggest triumphs. Over the past several decades, CAD has lost much of its punch. In a 2007 report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers estimated that a substantial decline in CAD mortality rates in the United States between 1980 and 2000 accounted for more than 340,000 fewer deaths in 2000. According to the study, almost half those people owed their lives to better treatments for coronary artery disease.
Certain factors may increase your risk for coronary artery disease, including sex, age, and family history. Personal choices, such as whether you smoke cigarettes and your level of regular exercise, also play a role in your risk level.