Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, is one of the top causes of death in the UK, and worldwide. It is a result of the build-up of fatty substances within the coronary arteries, causing blockages and the arteries to become narrow and rigid. This restricts blood flow to the heart, and the supply of oxygen and nutrients, which has a direct effect on the heart’s function.


Coronary heart disease is caused by a build-up of fatty deposits within the coronary arteries – the arteries around the heart. This process is called: ‘atherosclerosis’.

The following lifestyle factors can cause atherosclerosis to develop:

  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol and/or high blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of CHD


The main symptom of coronary artery disease is angina, a condition which produces a feeling of pain, discomfort, tightness or pressure across the front of the chest.

Other symptoms include: shortness of breath, heart palpitations, rapid heartbeat, nausea, sweating or dizziness.

Untreated coronary artery disease can lead to stroke, heart attack or heart failure. It is therefore important to watch out for the above symptoms and seek advice from a health professional to ensure you get the right treatment.


If you or your GP suspects that you may be at risk of developing CHD, it is recommended that you undergo an initial risk assessment. This involves an assessment of your lifestyle, medical history and family history, a blood pressure test and a blood test to evaluate cholesterol levels in your blood. In order to confirm a diagnosis of CHD, you may be referred to a specialist for more tests.

These may include:


With the right treatment, the symptoms of Coronary artery disease can be managed and the heart function improved. Treatment typically involves a combination of lifestyle changes and medication, although surgery may sometimes be required in severe cases or when the first two approaches have not worked.

  • Lifestyle changes – healthy eating, exercise and quitting smoking (if you smoke) can all help to reduce the symptoms of CHD and reduce the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries.
  • Medication – A range of medications can be used to directly reduce blood pressure or widen the arteries.
  • Surgery – The following procedures may be carried out to widen or unblock the coronary arteries: Coronary Angioplasty, Coronary Artery Bypass Graft and Heart Transplant.

Case Studies

Patient Video: Treating heart disease with dissolvable stents

Chinese patient, Qingheng Miao, shares his story of being treated for heart disease with a dissolvable stent.

From Bypass Surgery to Bicycle: The ride of my life!

Read this patient's inspiring story of how he trained to compete in a cycling race just 11 months after a double bypass, under supervision of his consultant.

The view from Mount Snowden 3 months after heart bypass

Brian Merritt, 70, came to Harefield with life-threatening heart disease. Read his story of how a passion for hiking helped him to get healthy again.


A dream trip to Paris takes an unexpected turn for US heart patient

Mr and Mrs Ritchie from the US were passing through Heathrow airport to catch a plane for their dream trip to Paris when Mr Ritchie had a heart attack...