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Coronary Artery Disease & Heart Attack Care

New and Current Patients


Fax: 858-657-1252

 Cardiovascular Care Locations

From diagnosis to treatment, we provide the most advanced care for coronary artery disease. Our cardiologists, surgeons and other experts work together to give you comprehensive and personalized care.

Meet our cardiologists

What is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease (CAD), also called coronary heart disease, occurs when the inner walls of the coronary arteries have a buildup of cholesterol and fatty deposits called plaques. These deposits may start in childhood and continue to thicken and enlarge throughout the life span. This thickening is called atherosclerosis and it can cut or block blood flow to the heart.

Read more about Coronary Artery Disease and Understanding Coronary Artery Disease in our health library.

Heart Attack Symptoms

A heart attack is often the first symptom of CAD. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense. But most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes – or it may go away and then return. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Other signs. Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

Read more about heart attack symptoms in our health library.

Lifesaving Heart Attack Care

  • Call 9-1-1 for emergency medical care if you think you're having a heart attack 
  • Our emergency departments in Hillcrest and La Jolla are ready to provide lifesaving treatment 24/7.

How is Coronary Artery Disease Diagnosed?

Your health care provider will ask about your health history and do a physical exam. You may also need these tests:

Patients with heart attacks have the best outcomes in hospitals such as UC San Diego Health which offer emergency cardiac catheterization, angioplasty and stent placement. Our interventional cardiologists perform a high volume of these procedures.

How is Coronary Heart Disease Treated?

Lifestyle changes

Living a heart-healthy lifestyle can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels and slow or stop coronary heart disease. This may include:

  • Quitting smoking, if you smoke
  • Exercising
  • Losing weight
  • Eating healthier foods such as lean meats, fruits and vegetables


Many medicines can treat coronary heart disease. These include antiplatelets, such as aspirin, which lower the risk for blood clotting. You may also take medicines that lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and treat diabetes.

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI)
This procedure uses catheters, balloons and other tools to open the blocked blood vessel and improve blood flow to the heart. These include:

  • Balloon angioplasty. A small balloon is inflated inside the blocked artery to open the blocked part.
  • Coronary artery stent. A tiny mesh coil is expanded inside the blocked artery to open the blocked part. It is left in place to keep the artery open. This is done with balloon angioplasty.
  • Atherectomy. The blocked part inside the artery is cut away by a tiny device on the end of a catheter.
  • Laser angioplasty. A laser is used to "vaporize" the blockage in the artery.

Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG)

This surgery uses arteries or veins from the body to reroute blood around a blockage in the coronary arteries. 

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