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Coronary Artery Disease


Overview :

Coronary artery disease, also called coronary heart disease or heart disease, is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, deaths from coronary artery disease have declined some since about 1990, but more than 40,000 people still died from the disease in 2000. About 13 million Americans have active symptoms of coronary artery disease.

Coronary artery disease occurs when the coronary arteries become partially blocked or clogged. This blockage limits the flow of blood from the coronary arteries, which are the major arteries supplying oxygen-rich blood to the heart. The coronary arteries expand when the heart is working harder and needs more oxygen. Arteries expand, for example, when a person is climbing stairs, exercising, or having sex. If the arteries are unable to expand, the heart is deprived of oxygen (myocardial ischemia). When the blockage is limited, chest pain or pressure, called angina, may occur. When the blockage cuts off the flow of blood, the result is heart attack (myocardial infarction or heart muscle death).

Healthy coronary arteries are clean, smooth, and slick. The artery walls are flexible and can expand to let more blood through when the heart needs to work harder. The disease process in arteries is thought to begin with an injury to the linings and walls of the arteries. This injury makes them susceptible to atherosclerosis and blood clots (thrombosis).




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