Coronary artery disease (CAD) is one type of heart disease
that occurs when the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle
(coronary arteries) are narrowed or blocked. This narrowing or blockage is most
often caused by the buildup of fat (cholesterol) and calcium inside the walls
of the arteries leading to the heart. This process is called atherosclerosis,
or hardening of the arteries. The buildup of fat and calcium inside the
arteries is called a plaque.
Plaque may narrow the arteries, reducing blood
flow to the heart muscle. If blood flow to the heart is reduced, a person may
have chest pain (angina).
A plaque may suddenly rupture or tear
open, causing a blood clot to form in an artery. When blood flow to the heart
muscle is blocked for an extended period of time, this sometimes results in a
heart attack (myocardial infarction).
Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in the
Primary Medical Reviewer
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
John A. McPherson, MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology
May 1, 2010
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
May 01, 2010
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