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Heart Disease Health Center

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Coronary Artery Disease - Cause

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 camera.gif), 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 camera.gif.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 30, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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