Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary Heart Disease Overview
Disease develops when a combination of fatty material, calcium, and scar tissue (plaque) builds up in the arteries that supply the heart with blood. Through these arteries, called the coronary arteries, the heart muscle (myocardium) gets the oxygen and other nutrients it needs to pump blood.
The heart consists of 4 chambers: an atrium and a ventricle on the right, and an atrium and ventricle on the left.
The pumping, or contraction, of the left ventricle must be very powerful because that is what keeps the blood flowing throughout the body.
The heart has 3 major coronary arteries.
As a child, the inner lining of the coronary arteries is quite smooth, allowing blood to flow easily. As a person ages, the cholesterol and calcium content in the walls of the coronary arteries increases, making them thicker and less elastic.
Plaque is like a firm shell with a soft inner core containing cholesterol. As blood hits it during each heartbeat, the plaque may crack open and expose its inner cholesterol core, which promotes blood clotting. Clots may further reduce blood flow, causing severe pain (angina), or even block it all together.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/15/2015
Vibhuti N Singh, MD, MPH, FACC, FSCAI
Alan D Forker, MD
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Michael E Zevitz, MD
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