Coronary heart disease

Phone 999 if:

You or someone else has symptoms like:

  • central chest pain or discomfort in the chest that doesn’t go away – it may feel like pressure, tightness or squeezing
  • pain that radiates down the left arm, or both arms, or to the neck, jaw, back or stomach
  • unconsciousness
  • seizures or fitting
  • difficulty breathing (snoring or rasping)
  • rapid heart beat
  • low or undetectable heart beat
  • chest pain and breathlessness, nausea, sweating or coughing up blood

What is coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a term used to describe what happens when the blood flow to the heart is interrupted or reduced. It is also known as ischaemic heart disease.

Often, the reduction or blockage in blood flow is caused by atherosclerosis. This is when a fatty material called atheroma builds up inside the coronary arteries. This can narrow the coronary arteries, reducing the blood flow.

If a piece of atheroma breaks off, this can cause a blockage and cut off blood supply to the heart. This is known as a heart attack.

Further information is available about the diagnosis, treatment and management of:

Symptoms of coronary heart disease

The main symptoms of coronary heart disease are:

  • chest pain (angina)
  • shortness of breath
  • pain throughout the body
  • feeling faint
  • feeling sick (nausea)

Phone 999 if:

Heart failure and coronary heart disease

Heart failure can sometimes occur in people with CHD. This is when the heart becomes too weak to pump blood around the body. This can cause fluid to build up in the lungs, making it increasingly difficult to breathe.

Chest pains without coronary disease

Microvascular angina is a problem with tiny blood vessels that supply blood to your heart. It may be caused when these tiny blood vessels:

  • can’t open up properly to let your blood flow
  • severely narrow, blocking blood flow to the heart

The main symptom of microvascular angina is chest pain. You may feel it at any time.

Lifestyle changes can often improve symptoms.

Read further information about microvascular angina

Further information is available on the impact of heart disease on women

Diagnosing coronary heart disease

Many different tests may be used to diagnose coronary heart disease, including:

Risk factors for coronary heart disease

There are various risk factors for heart disease, some of which you have control over and others that you don’t.

Uncontrollable risk factors

Uncontrollable risk factors for heart disease include:

Lifestyle risk factors

Your risk can also be increased by certain lifestyle factors. These are sometimes called controllable risk factors. For example, your diet, level of physical activity and smoking habits.

You can make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of heart disease, including:

Health conditions

If you’ve been diagnosed with some other health conditions, you might also be at increased risk of heart disease. These conditions include:

Support groups

You might find support groups useful if you:

  • have a heart condition
  • have had a heart condition in the past
  • are caring for someone with a heart condition

Your GP or specialist should be able to provide you with details about your nearest support group. You can also search Scotland’s Services Directory.

Information and support for people living with a heart condition is also provided by:


Last updated:
04 July 2024