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Heart Disease Health Center

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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. This means that plaque, made of fats and other substances, builds up in the coronary 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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In some cases, sudden and serious problems can happen. Some types of plaque are 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.

    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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