Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Is the term "coronary heart disease" redundant?

Ask the doctor

Is the term "coronary heart disease" redundant?

Q. I always thought that coronary and heart meant pretty much the same thing. If that's so, isn't "coronary heart disease" redundant?

A. You aren't alone in being confused by this widely used term. In its broadest sense, "coronary" is an adjective that refers to anything related to the heart. Used that way, "coronary heart disease" would mean a redundant "heart disease in the heart." But the word also has a more specific meaning: relating to, or being, the arteries and veins of the heart. These are the vessels that lie on the outside of the heart and feed the heart muscle with oxygen and nutrients and whisk away carbon dioxide. So "coronary heart disease" is generally used to mean heart disease stemming from coronary arteries narrowed or blocked by atherosclerosis. In countries like the United States, where coronary artery disease is the overwhelmingly dominant heart problem, the terms "coronary heart disease" and "coronary artery disease" are used interchangeably.

— Richard Lee, M.D.
Associate Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »