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A Few Words about Coronary Artery Disease

To understand the nature of coronary artery disease, it can be helpful to learn about coronary arteries.

Role of the coronary arteries

The coronary arteries are blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients required for the normal function of the cardiac muscle. The heart is served by three main coronary arteries: left coronary artery, circumflex coronary artery and right coronary artery.

 

What happens in coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease generally occurs when there is a narrowing of the coronary arteries due to accumulation of cholesterol (atherosclerosis) on the walls of these vessels.

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Coronary artery disease decreases the blood supply to the heart. In order to compensate, the heart has to work harder to pump the blood. This can weaken the heart and lead to complications such as angina or myocardial infarction (heart attack). Angina occurs when the coronaries cannot supply enough blood supply in situations with increased demand of oxygen for the heart such as exercise, stress. In these situations, the individual will develop symptoms of angina such as shortness of breath, or pain in the chest, arms, jaw or back.

Fragments of the cholesterol deposits can break and occlude the artery. This occlusion can be partial or total, depriving part of the heart of adequate supplies of blood and oxygen. A prolonged absence of oxygen delivered to the cardiac muscle can cause death of a part of the heart (myocardial infarction or heart attack). Damage to this part of the heart is permanent and irreversible.