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Coronary Heart Disease - What Causes It?

Updated on July 4, 2011

Causes of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)

There are many causes of coronary heart disease; a disease where the coronary arteries that keeps your heart pumping oxygen and nutrient rich blood around the body becomes narrowed or blocked causing the heart to be under a strain to function properly.


Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of CHD. What happens is that a build up of fatty materials develop within the walls of the arteries in the body with the arteries to the tissues that serve the heart being most adversely affected.

When the coronary arteries are completely blocked a heart attack will occur. This is usually the final step when the supply or oxygen and nutrients fail to reach the heart muscle and the artery dies.

It should be noted that some people are predisposed to Atherosclerosis because of inherited factors. However, it can also be caused by high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, an unhealthy diet, obesity, lack of exercise and smoking.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is another cause that develops over time and before you know it you have become a victim of what is also known as the ‘silent killer’ So what is High Blood pressure? First you have to understand what blood pressure is; it’s theforce of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood around the body. If this pressure increases and remains high for a prolonged period of time it can damage organs in the body and lead to coronary heart disease.

High blood pressure is a dangerous condition mainly because it does not manifest any symptoms and many people do not even realise they have HBP until it is advanced and they experience symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and chest pains.

The best advice is that everyone should have their blood pressure checked and in particular people:

  • With a family history of high blood pressure
  • Pregnant women
  • With a history of high blood pressure or
  • Heart and kidney problems and
  • Over the age of 35


As mentioned above atherosclerosis is the most common cause of coronary heart disease, unfortunately if you have diabetes you are hit with a double whammy because it actually accelerates atherosclerosis, (the build up of fatty plaque substances inside the arteries).

The effect of the changes within your arteries can lead to a heart attack, stroke, and circulation problems in the arms and legs, commonly referred to as peripheral vascular disease.

The only way to prevent accelerated formation of atherosclerosis is to ensure that your diabetes is well controlled.


Are you carrying too much weight around the middle? If you are, you should do what you can to reduce any excess around your waist as many studies have shown that people who are overweight or obese especially in the stomach area, are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke even if there are no other risk factors.

If you are overweight or obese you are putting increased pressure on your heart to work effectively. Excess weight also raises blood pressure, blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and reduces the HDL “good” cholesterol levels that your body needs.

There is also the likelihood that you could also develop diabetes. So as you can see being overweight or obese can seriously damage your health.

Losing weight can be difficult but if you take it at a regular, steady pace as loss as little as 10 pounds can lower your risk of heart disease.


Smoking is detrimental to your health and smokers’ are more at risk of developing coronary heart disease than non-smokers, at least 2-4 times more likely.

All forms of smoking increases the risk of heart disease and chewing tobacco is also included as a risk factor. Cigarette smoking is a major independent risk factor for sudden cardiac death in patients with coronary heart disease; It also interacts with other risk factors and greatly increases the risk for coronary heart disease.

It appears that people who smoke cigars or pipes have a greater risk of dying from coronary heart disease or having a stroke, although their risk is not at high as that of cigarette smokers. Passive smoking also increases the risk of heart disease even for non-smokers.

Other risk factors include

Consuming an unhealthy diet

High Cholesterol levels

Lack of exercise

The menopause

Further Reading: What Is Heart Disease?


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    • Moms-Secret profile image

      Lissette 6 years ago from Central Florida

      Thank you. Yours is the first of the many that I have read to address the fact that this is an inherited disease. I was getting angry about it.

      voted up and useful...