Quick Navigation

Coronary artery disease (CAD)

Coronary artery disease (CAD; sometimes called coronary heart disease, or CHD) is a common kind of heart disease caused by atherosclerosis of the heart’s arteries. Diet and exercise can play a pretty big role to both prevent and treat it. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two major risk factors.

Our evidence-based analysis on coronary artery disease (cad) features 10 unique references to scientific papers.

Research analysis led by and reviewed by the Examine team.
Last Updated:

Summary of Coronary artery disease (CAD)

What is coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease (CAD; sometimes called coronary heart disease, or CHD) is the most common kind of heart disease. It happens when the arteries that feed blood to the heart muscles harden and get clogged through atherosclerosis. This process starves the heart of the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function well. Worsening CAD can lead to permanent heart damage and ultimately death. [1]

What are the main signs and symptoms of coronary artery disease?

Damage to the coronary begins early in life, and is usually without major symptoms until things get pretty bad. At that point, one of the main symptoms of CAD is chest pain (angina) that lasts on the order of minutes (as opposed to hours or seconds)[2]. However, the specifics of how this feels, when it occurs, and what’s associated with the pain depend on the specifics of the clinical disease; heart attacks (where a clot breaks off from a ruptured athrosclerotic plaque and blocks a narrower downstream artery) are different from, say, stable ischemic heart disease (where pain appears upon exertion and settles down afterwards).

How is coronary artery disease diagnosed?

The specifics of how chest pain feels, along with risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, lifestyle factors such as smoking, and a family history of cardiovascular diseases is often enough to raise a strong suspicion of CAD. Physical examination and additional testing by a medical professional along with results along with blood work can provide further evidence.[3] 

What are some of the main medical treatments for coronary artery disease?

The specifics of medical treatment ultimately depends on the specifics of the person and the clinical disease they have. The treatments tend to fall into a few categories:

  • Medically treating underlying risk factors to slow CAD progression. For instance, statins can be used to lower cholesterol - and prevent further heart damage

  • Drugs for symptom relief. For example, nitroglycerin can be used in people with stable ischemic heart disease to reduce short-term chest pain. Drugs that work on the heart like beta-blockers and calcium-channel blockers are often used to control pain and discomfort in the longer term, and also may help improve other outcomes in people who have established clinical disease[3] 

  • In severe cases, invasive procedures like surgeries are sometimes used

Medical treatments are ideally added on top of lifestyle changes that can help slow CAD progression. Things like quitting smoking and exercise can help a lot.

Have any supplements been studied for coronary artery disease?

Yes, many supplements have been studied for both preventing clinical CAD as well as in people who already have CAD.[4] Given that high blood pressure and high cholesterol cause CAD, supplements that affect those outcomes may also affect the risk of CAD progression.

What's the connection between diet and coronary artery disease?

There’s a big connection, although there’s still some controversy around the details, such as whether or not limiting saturated fat without considering what it’s being replaced with will do much.[5][6][7] Just like with atherosclerosis, guidelines suggest that a diet abundant in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains, can help reduce the risk of CAD.[8] Weight loss for people with higher BMIs may also play a role in preventing CAD, although the current evidence suggests that modest weight loss (in the 5-10 kg range) may have limited benefits.[9] 

Are there any other treatments for coronary artery disease?

Exercise can play a big role in preventing CAD[8] and also can help people who have CAD improve their health.[10] Guidelines suggest that the role of resistance training in preventing CAD is unclear, but resistance training is still encouraged.[8]

What causes coronary artery disease?

Atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries leads to CAD.

Easily stay on top of the latest nutrition research

Become an Examine Member to get access to the latest research. Get 150+ studies summarized for you across 25 different categories every month.

Members also have access to the Examine Study Database of 400+ supplements and their effects on 600+ health outcomes, as well as in-depth research analyses. Understand the whole body of nutrition and supplement evidence at a glance.

Get instant access — start your free 14-day trial

Already a Member? Click here to log in.


Human Effect Matrix

Unlocked for Examine Members

Easily stay on top of the latest nutrition research

Become an Examine Member to get access to the latest research. Get 150+ studies summarized for you across 25 different categories every month.

Members also have access to the Examine Study Database of 400+ supplements and their effects on 600+ health outcomes, as well as in-depth research analyses. Understand the whole body of nutrition and supplement evidence at a glance.

Get instant access — start your free 14-day trial

Already a Member? Click here to log in.


The Human Effect Matrix looks at human studies to tell you what supplements affect Coronary artery disease (CAD).

Unlock the full Study Database with an Examine Membership. Get a 14-day free trial.
Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Supplement Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Notes
grade-b Minor - See study
One meta-analysis found a decrease in the risk of developing coronary heart disease when compared to control.
grade-d Minor - See study
A slightly increased chance of heart disease was said to occur in one study pairing black cohosh with exercise, and an increased risk was also determined in control but not in black cohosh in isolation.

Stay on top of the latest research

To unlock the full archives of our Study Database and research analyses, become an Examine Member today.

Start your 14-day free trial

Things to Note

Also Known As

coronary heart disease, ischemic heart disease, chd, cad

Click here to see all 10 references.