Coronary artery disease is
caused by hardening of the arteries, or
atherosclerosis. This means that fatty deposits called plaque
build up inside the arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry
oxygen-rich blood throughout your body.
Atherosclerosis can affect any
arteries in the body. When it occurs in the arteries that supply blood to the
heart (the coronary arteries), it is called coronary artery disease.
When plaque builds
up in the coronary arteries, the heart may not get the blood that it needs to work
well. This is called ischemia (say "is-KEE-mee-uh"). Ischemia can cause symptoms such as chest pain or pressure. Over time, ischemia can weaken or damage the heart. Sometimes the plaque buildup does not limit blood flow.
If the plaque breaks apart, it can cause a heart attack. A tear or rupture in the plaque tells the body to repair the injured artery lining, much as the body might heal a cut on the skin. A blood clot forms to seal the area. The blood clot can completely block blood flow to the heart muscle and cause a heart attack.
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This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
September 30, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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