Please be aware that some programs and video content are temporarily unavailable, as the CEMM transitions to a new website. This content will be available soon but if you have any questions or concerns please contact us here

Causes and Risk Factors


Dr. Phillips
Research suggests that coronary artery disease develops when the inner layers of the coronary arteries become damaged. Captain Miller, can you tell us about some of the factors that may contribute to this kind of damage?

Captain Miller
Certainly, Dr. Phillips. Factors and conditions that can cause damage to the coronary arteries include:

  • Smoking
  • Dyslipidemia, or unhealthy levels of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood
  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure
  • High levels of glucose, or sugar, in the blood due to insulin resistance or diabetes, and
  • Blood vessel inflammation

Being overweight or obese greatly increase the risk for developing many of these conditions, which means they're also risk factors for coronary artery disease. Lack of physical activity and an unhealthy diet contribute to these problems.

Other conditions and lifestyle factors that can increase the likelihood of developing coronary artery disease include:

  • Sleep apnea, a disorder in which a person has one or more pauses in breathing while they sleep
  • Stress
  • Heavy alcohol consumption, which can damage the heart muscle
  • Preeclampsia, a condition during pregnancy in which there is a rise in blood pressure and excess protein in the urine, and
  • Other inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus

There are also risk factors, such as age and family history, that are beyond our control. Specifically, the risk for coronary artery disease increases for men starting at age 45, and for women at age 55. The risk also increases for those who have a first-degree relative diagnosed with coronary artery disease at an early age.