Coronary Artery Disease
Signs and Symptoms

The most common disease of the coronary arteries is arteriosclerosis, commonly called "hardening of the arteries." Plaque — a combination of cholesterol and other fats, calcium and other elements carried in the blood — builds up in the small blood vessels that feed the heart. When this condition exists in other parts of the body, it is called atherosclerosis.

This plaque buildup can, in time, narrow the arteries so severely that blood flow to the heart is inadequate and symptoms of insufficient blood flow — called angina — develop. Angina is a term meaning strangling or oppressive heaviness and pain, but it has become synonymous with angina pectoris or chest pain caused by lack of oxygen to the heart due to poor blood supply.

In addition to angina or chest pain, arteriosclerosis can produce fatigue, shortness of breath and an abnormal heart beat or arrhythmia. Plaque also can tear the artery walls and form blood clots that can lead to a heart attack. Often, there are no symptoms of arteriosclerosis until a heart attack occurs.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Heart & Vascular Center

Cardiology Clinic at Mount Zion
1600 Divisadero St., Suite C-244
San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: (415) 885-3666
Fax: (415) 885-3676
Appointment information

Cardiovascular Care and Prevention Center at Mission Bay
535 Mission Bay Blvd. South
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2873
Fax: (415) 353-2528
Appointment information

Asian Heart & Vascular Center
1600 Divisadero St., Second Floor, Suite C-244
San Francisco, CA 94115
Appointments: (415) 885-3678
Events: (415) 885-3678
Fax: (415) 885-3676
Appointment information

Electrophysiology & Arrhythmia Service
400 Parnassus Ave., Fifth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94143
Phone: (415) 353-2554
Fax: (415) 353-2528
Appointment information

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