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What Is Coronary Artery Disease

What Is Coronary Artery Disease

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Published by: ssuhaas on Feb 06, 2010
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What Is Coronary Artery Disease?
Coronary artery disease (CAD), also called coronary heart disease, is a condition in which plaque (plak) builds up inside the coronaryarteries. These arteries supply your heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood.Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol (ko-LES-ter-ol), calcium, and other substances found in the blood. When plaque builds up in thearteries, the condition is called atherosclerosis (ATH-er-o-skler-O-sis).
Figure A shows a normal artery with normal blood flow. Figure B shows an artery with plaque buildup.Plaque narrows the arteries and reduces blood flow to your heart muscle. It also makes it more likely that blood clots will form in your arteries. Blood clots can partially or completely block blood flow.
When your coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked, oxygen-rich blood can't reach your heart muscle. This can cause angina  (an-JI-nuh or AN-juh-nuh) or a heart attack.
What Causes Coronary Artery Disease?
Research suggests that coronary artery disease (CAD) starts when certain factors damage the inner layers of the coronary arteries. Thesefactors include:
High amounts of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood
High amounts of sugar in the blood due to insulin resistance or  diabetes  When damage occurs, your body starts a healing process. Excess fatty tissues release compounds that promote this process. This healingcauses plaque to build up where the arteries are damaged.The buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries may start in childhood. Over time, plaque can narrow or completely block some of your coronary arteries. This reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle.Plaque also can crack, which causes blood cells called platelets (PLATE-lets) to clump together and form blood clots at the site of the cracks.This narrows the arteries more and worsens angina or causes a heart attack 
What Is Coronary Artery Disease?
Coronary artery disease is 
 of the coronary arteries, producing blockages in the vesselswhich nourish the heart itself. Atherosclerosis occurs when the arteries become clogged and narrowed,restricting blood flow. Without adequate blood flow from the coronary arteries, the heart becomes starvedof oxygen and vital nutrients it needs to work properly.
How Does Coronary Artery Disease Develop?
Your coronary arteries
are blood vessels on the heart. They are smooth and elastic, allowing blood to flowfreely.Before your teen years, fat can start to deposit in the blood vessel walls. As you get older, the fat buildsup. This causes injury to your blood vessel walls. In an attempt to heal itself, the fatty tissues releasechemicals that promote the process of healing but make the inner walls of the blood vessel sticky.Then, other substances, such as inflammatory cells, proteins, and calcium that travel in your bloodstreamstart sticking to the inside of the vessel walls. The fat and other substances combine to form a materialcalled plaque, which can narrow the flow of blood in the artery (atherosclerosis).Some plaque deposits are hard on the outside and soft and mushy on the inside. Some plaque is fragile,cracking or tearing, exposing the soft, fatty inside. When this happens, platelets (disc-shaped particles inthe blood that aid clotting) come to the area, and blood clots accumulate on the injured vessel wall. Thiscauses the artery to narrow even more. Sometimes, the blood clot breaks apart by itself, and bloodsupply is restored.Over time, the inside of the arteries develop plaques of different sizes.Eventually, a narrowed coronary artery may develop new blood vessels that go around the blockage toget blood to the heart. However, during times of increased exertion or stress, the new arteries may not beable to supply enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle.
In other cases, the blood clot may totally block the blood supply to the heart muscle, causing what iscalled an acute coronary syndrome. This is actually a name given to three serious conditions:
Unstable angina:
 that can often be relieved with oral 
,is unstable, and mayprogress to a 
.Usually more intense medical treatment or a procedure is required to treat thisacute coronary syndrome.
Non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) or "non-Q-wave MI":
This heart attack, or MI, does not cause typical changes on an electrocardiogram (ECG). However, chemical markers in theblood indicate that damage has occurred to the heart muscle.
ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) or "Q-wave MI":
This heart attack, or MI, iscaused by a prolonged period of blocked blood supply. It affects a large area of the heart muscle, andcauses changes on the ECG as well as chemical markers in the blood.Some people have symptoms that tell them that they may soon develop an acute coronary syndrome,others may have no symptoms until something happens, and still others have no symptoms of the acutecoronary syndrome at
Other Names for Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary heart disease
Hardening of the arteries
Heart disease
Ischemic (is-KE-mik) heart disease
Narrowing of the arteries Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when not enough oxygen-rich blood is flowing to an area of your heart muscle. Angina mayfeel like pressure or squeezing in your chest. The pain also may occur in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. A heart attack occurs when blood flow to an area of your heart muscle is completely blocked. This prevents oxygen-rich blood from reachingthat area of heart muscle and causes it to die. Without quick treatment, a heart attack can lead to serious problems and even death.Over time, CAD can weaken the heart muscle and lead to heart failure and arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs). Heart failure is a condition in which your heart can't pump enough blood throughout your body. Arrhythmias are problems with the speed or rhythm of your heartbeat.
CAD is the most common type of heart disease. It's the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Lifestylechanges, medicines, and/or medical procedures can effectively prevent or treat CAD in most people
What Are the Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease?

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