Coronary heart disease : Causes

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is usually caused by a build-up of fatty deposits (atheroma) on the walls of the arteries around the heart (coronary arteries).

The build-up of atheroma makes the arteries narrower, restricting the flow of blood to the heart muscle. This process is called atherosclerosis.

Your risk of developing atherosclerosis is significantly increased if you:

Other risk factors for developing atherosclerosis include:

  • being obese or overweight
  • having a family history of CHD - the risk is increased if you have a male relative under the age of 55, or a female relative under 65, with CHD 

High cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fat made by the liver from the saturated fat in your diet.

It's essential for healthy cells, but too much in the blood can lead to CHD.

Read more about high cholesterol

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High blood pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) puts a strain on your heart and can lead to CHD.

Read more about high blood pressure.

Blood Pressure UK have also produced a useful guide explaining high, low and normal blood pressure readings.   

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Smoking is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease. Both nicotine and carbon monoxide (from the smoke) put a strain on the heart by making it work faster. They also increase your risk of blood clots.

Other chemicals in cigarette smoke can damage the lining of your coronary arteries, leading to furring of the arteries. If you smoke, you increase your risk of developing heart disease by 24%.

Read about how to stop smoking and stop smoking treatments.

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A high blood sugar level may lead to diabetes, which can more than double your risk of developing CHD.

Diabetes can lead to CHD because it may cause the lining of blood vessels to become thicker, which can restrict blood flow.

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A thrombosis is a blood clot in a vein or artery.

If a thrombosis occurs in a coronary artery it prevents the blood supply from reaching the heart muscle. This usually leads to a heart attack.

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