Diffuse coronary artery disease refers to widespread damage or disease in the coronary arteries, which are major blood vessels that supply blood, nutrients, and oxygen to the heart (see Reference 1). According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States (see Reference 2).
Shortness of breath or pain, pressure, or tightness in the chest may be indications of coronary artery disease. When an artery becomes completely blocked, you may experience a heart attack (see Reference 1, Symptoms).
The buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries, known as atherosclerosis, can lead to diffuse coronary artery disease (see Reference 2). The disease is believed to begin with damage to a coronary artery, sometimes even in childhood (see Reference 1, Causes).
Factors like high blood pressure, smoking, high blood sugar levels, and high amounts of fat and cholesterol in the blood can put you at risk for coronary artery disease (see Reference 2, Causes).
Several medications can be used to treat coronary artery disease, including aspirin, cholesterol-modifying drugs, nitroglycerin, and beta blockers. Changes to lifestyle, like quitting smoking, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and weight loss can promote healthy arteries (see Reference 1, Treatments and drugs).
Coronary artery bypass surgery is sometimes necessary in diffuse coronary artery disease, where more than one coronary artery is affected. Balloon angioplasty may be used to compress plaque against artery walls, sometimes with the use of a stent or mesh tube to keep the artery open (see Reference 1, Treatments and Drugs).