Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease is caused by the buildup of Reference plaque Opens New Window on the inside of your Reference coronary arteries Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window. Plaque buildup can begin early in life and happens over a lifetime.
Coronary artery disease typically begins when the inside walls of the coronary arteries are damaged because of another health problem, such as:
- Reference High cholesterol Opens New Window.
- Reference High blood pressure Opens New Window.
- Reference Diabetes.
- Reference Smoking.
Plaque, which is made up of excess cholesterol, calcium, and other substances in your blood, builds up on the damaged inner walls of your coronary arteries. This process usually occurs throughout the body and is called Reference atherosclerosis, or "hardening of the arteries."
Over time, plaque buildup narrows the coronary arteries and can lead to Reference ischemia (insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle). Ischemia (say "is-KEE-mee-uh") can weaken the heart muscle, but it usually does not cause heart muscle cells to die.
But heart muscle cells can die if blood flow is severely reduced or completely blocked for a period of time. This can happen if plaque breaks apart and makes a clot that blocks an artery. This can cause myocardial infarction, or heart attack.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference May 9, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Reference Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
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