woman hugging man heart

Living with coronary artery disease

CAD is lifelong, but you can manage it by:

  • Eating a heart-healthy diet
  • Exercising
  • Keeping your weight in check
  • Controlling your blood pressure
  • Managing your cholesterol
  • Keeping your blood sugar levels in check
  • Seeing your doctor for regular checkups

Learn more about our Risk Reduction Clinic.

Coronary Artery Disease

Prevention and screening are the best defense

Coronary artery disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the U.S. Yet it's often silent. It gives few signs before it leads to its most likely outcome – a heart attack.

In most people, coronary artery disease, or CAD, begins years before problems start to show. Coronary arteries carry blood, oxygen and nutrients to the heart. They can become damaged, narrowed or blocked. Your heart no longer gets the amount of oxygen-rich blood it needs.

Right now, 30-40 percent of CAD cases are diagnosed after a heart attack. Our goal is to identify blockages before they disrupt the heart’s ability to keep up.

Plaque causes blockage

Plaque is made up of excess cholesterol, calcium and other substances in your blood. It builds up on the inner walls of your arteries. This condition is called atherosclerosis, a gradual hardening of your arteries. Over time, these deposits accumulate and narrow the blood's pathways. When plaque thickens, it also can break off and form clots that can stop the flow of blood altogether, causing a heart attack. Plaque buildup begins early in life and gradually worsens.

Risk factors

The risk factors for CAD are easy to spot. By themselves, these factors might not put you at higher risk of heart disease. But the risk factors add up. The more you have, the greater your chances of having a heart attack. You can control many of them.

Risks you can control

  • Blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Sleep apnea
  • Stress
  • Tobacco use

Take Action!

Risks you can’t control

  • Age: Your risk of CAD increases with age – especially at age 65 and older.
  • Ethnic background: You are at greater risk for CAD if you are black.
  • Family history
  • Gender: In the past, men have been at greater risk than women, but the rate of heart attack in women has been increasing since the 1980s.


  • Chest pain, heaviness or tightness
  • Changes in exercise tolerance
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Neck, jaw or arm pain with activity

If you think you’re having a heart attack, call 911 and get help fast.

Why choose The University of Kansas Health System

We are leaders in prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease.

  • Our Risk Reduction Clinic is devoted to helping people take control of their heart health.
  • We participate in a variety of clinical trials to improve prevention and treatment of heart disease.
  • Our University of Kansas Medical Center partners are known for innovative research into heart disease.
  • People who come to our Regional Heart Attack Center are more likely to survive.
    • In all areas of heart attack care, we exceed the top 10 percent of hospitals nationally.
    • Our interventional specialists open blocked arteries faster than national standards.
    • Our patients experience fewer complications than the national average.
    • Although we take care of sicker patients, our mortality rate for heart attack patients is better than the national standard.