Coronary heart disease : Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests

Symptoms & Signs

Symptoms may be very noticeable, but sometimes you can have the disease and not have any symptoms.

Chest pain or discomfort (angina) is the most common symptom. You feel this pain when the heart is not getting enough blood or oxygen. How bad the pain is varies from person to person.

  • It may feel heavy or like someone is squeezing your heart. You feel it under your breast bone (sternum), but also in your neck, arms, stomach, or upper back.
  • The pain usually occurs with activity or emotion, and goes away with rest or a medicine called nitroglycerin.
  • Other symptoms include shortness of breath and fatigue with activity (exertion).

See: Heart failure for symptoms of heart failure

Diagnosis & Tests

Many tests help diagnose CHD. Usually, your doctor will order more than one test before making a definite diagnosis.

Tests may include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Exercise stress test
  • Echocardiogram
  • Nuclear scan
  • Electron-beam computed tomography (EBCT) to look for calcium in the lining of the arteries — the more calcium, the higher your chance for CHD
  • CT angiography — a noninvasive way to perform coronary angiography
  • Magnetic resonance angiography
  • Coronary angiography/arteriography — an invasive procedure designed to evaluate the heart arteries under x-ray


Review Date : 4/23/2009
Reviewed By : Steven Kang, MD, Division of Cardiac Pacing and Electrophysiology, East Bay Arrhythmia, Cardiovascular Consultants Medical Group, Oakland, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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