CAD happens when the arteries that supply blood to heart muscle become hardened and narrowed. This is due to the buildup of cholesterol and other material, called plaque, on their inner walls. This buildup is called atherosclerosis. As it grows, less blood can flow through the arteries. As a result, the heart muscle can’t get the blood or oxygen it needs. This can lead to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack. Most heart attacks happen when a blood clot suddenly cuts off the hearts’ blood supply, causing permanent heart damage.
Over time, CAD can also weaken the heart muscle and contribute to heart failure and arrhythmias. Heart failure means the heart can’t pump blood well to the rest of the body. Arrhythmias are changes in the normal beating rhythm of the heart.
People with lupus have a higher risk of CAD. This is partly because people with lupus have more CAD risk factors, which may include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. The inflammation that accompanies lupus also increases the risk of developing CAD. People with lupus are often less active because of fatigue, joint problems, and/or muscle pain, and this also puts them at risk.
Heart disease is the number one killer of all women, but women with lupus are 50 times more likely to have chest pain or a heart attack than other women of the same age.