What is coronary artery disease?

When someone has coronary artery disease their heart has to work harder than normal to receive adequate blood supply.

If the blood supply is restricted too much the heart operation is impaired and pain is experienced during activity. As this gets more serious, pain may be experienced at rest. Complete blockage of the blood supply leads to a heart attack.

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Blockage of the artery

Symptoms of heart disease include:

  • Breathlessness apparent when exercising or during moderate activity such as walking upstairs, carrying shopping and gardening
  • Chest pain during activity. This can feel like a heaviness or tightness in the centre of the chest, which may spread to the arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach. Symptoms occur during exercise and disappear once at rest and breathing has returned to normal
  • Chest pain at rest. Severe pain at rest is serious, may be a sign of heart attack and needs to be treated urgently. The pain may spread to the arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach. If it is a heart attack, it’s common to experience sweating, light-headedness, nausea and shortness of breath as well. Although these additional symptoms may not be present
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The symptoms described above usually indicate narrowing of the arteries, however in some cases they signify a narrowing of the heart valve – aortic stenosis. This will be established at diagnosis. You can get more information about aortic stenosis on the website.

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If you or someone else is experiencing severe chest pain, described as a
tightness in the chest – it could be a heart attack. Call 999 immediately.