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Overview - Coronary heart disease (CHD)

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a major cause of death in Ireland and worldwide. CHD is sometimes called ischaemic heart disease.

Symptoms of coronary heart disease (CHD)

The main symptoms of CHD are:

Not everyone has the same symptoms and some people may not have any before CHD is diagnosed.

Read more about the symptoms of CHD

Causes of coronary heart disease (CHD)

Coronary heart disease is when your heart's blood supply is compromised by narrowings or blockages in your heart blood vessels. This is usually caused by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries.

Over time, the walls of your arteries can become blocked with fatty deposits. This process is known as atherosclerosis and the fatty deposits are called atheroma. They are often referred to as plaques.

Atherosclerosis can be caused by lifestyle factors and other conditions, such as:

  • smoking
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • diabetes

Read more about the causes of CHD

Diagnosing coronary heart disease (CHD)

If your doctor feels you're at risk of CHD, they may carry out a risk assessment.

They will ask about your medical and family history, your lifestyle and taking a blood test.

Further tests may be needed to confirm a diagnosis of CHD, including:

  • a treadmill test (exercise stress test)
  • a radionuclide scan
  • a CT scan
  • an MRI scan
  • coronary angiography

Read more about diagnosing CHD

Treating coronary heart disease (CHD)

Coronary heart disease cannot be cured.

Treatment can help manage the symptoms. It can also reduce the chance of having a heart attack.

Treatment can include:

Recovering from the effects of coronary heart disease (CHD)

It's possible to have a normal life after a heart attack, angioplasty or heart surgery.

Advice and support are available to help you deal with aspects of your life that may have been affected by CHD.

Preventing coronary heart disease (CHD)

You can reduce your risk of getting CHD by making some lifestyle changes.

These include:

Keeping your heart healthy will also have other health benefits. It will help reduce your risk of stroke and dementia.

Read about dementia - understandtogether.ie

The heart

The heart is a muscle about the size of your fist. It pumps blood around your body and beats approximately 70 times a minute.

After the blood leaves the right side of the heart, it goes to your lungs where it picks up oxygen.

The oxygen-rich blood returns to your heart. It is then pumped to the body's organs through a network of arteries.

The blood returns to your heart through veins before being pumped back to your lungs again. This process is called circulation.

The heart gets its supply of blood from a network of blood vessels on the heart's surface. These are called coronary arteries.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 7 March 2021
Next review due: 7 March 2024