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Coronary Artery Disease - What Happens

Coronary artery disease most often begins when the inside walls of the coronary arteries are damaged because of another health problem, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, or smoking. This damage can lead to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

If your heart disease gets worse, your arteries will narrow, and less blood will flow to your heart. You may start to have angina symptoms, such as chest pain or discomfort when you exercise or feel stressed. This is called stable angina.

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Atherosclerosis: Your Arteries Age by Age

Atherosclerosis takes place over a lifetime. Complications from atherosclerosis tend to happen later in life. But the process of narrowing and hardening of the arteries starts early, progressing over decades. Developing some atherosclerosis is often unavoidable. It's the result of aging and our own genetic tendencies. A much larger part, though, is determined by our behavior and lifestyle choices as we move through life. How old are your arteries? Are they the ones you had in college? Or are...

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In some cases, sudden and serious problems can happen. New blockages that form in the arteries of the heart can become unstable. They can suddenly tear and cause blood clots to form. These clots block blood flow to your heart, causing a heart attack or unstable angina.

Complications of heart disease

Over time, you may have other health problems caused by coronary artery disease. Low blood flow can make it harder for your heart to pump. This can lead to heart failure or atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 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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