Coronary Artery Disease
You may have heard the terms heart disease or coronary artery disease (CAD). Either of these terms refers to atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty deposits and calcium inside the blood vessel walls. When this occurs inside the arteries that provide blood to the heart muscle itself, it is called "coronary atherosclerosis."
When the buildup inside the arteries blocks a significant amount of the flow, the heart muscle becomes deprived of oxygen and nutrients that are needed for normal function.
A Healthy Artery
When the inner lining of a coronary artery is healthy, blood flows through the heart easily. This gives your heart muscle the oxygen and other nutrients it needs. Even during activity, healthy arteries can meet your heart's increased demand for oxygen.
A Damaged Artery
The inner lining of the artery can be damaged by high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, or smoking. This leads to a buildup of plaque within the lining of the artery. Blood may no longer flow easily to the heart muscle. This is the beginning of coronary artery disease. Click image.
A Narrowed Artery
If plaque buildup increases, the artery narrows and blood flow to the heart muscle is severely reduced. Your heart becomes starved for oxygen, which may cause angina. Click image.
A Blocked Artery
You may have a heart attack (myocardial infarction) if blood flow is completely blocked by a blood clot in the narrowed artery. Without oxygen-rich blood, some of the heart muscle is permanently damaged. Click image.
Learn More About Coronary Artery Disease
Learn more about heart disease at our Health Encyclopedia.
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