Understanding Coronary Artery Disease
heart is a muscle. To work right, this muscle needs a steady supply of oxygen. The
coronary arteries are blood vessels that send oxygen-rich
blood to the heart muscle. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is when there’s a problem
Healthy artery. A healthy coronary artery has no
blockages. Blood easily flows through it. Healthy arteries can supply all the oxygen-rich
blood your heart muscle needs.
Damaged artery. Some things can damage the lining of an
artery. These include smoking, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. CAD starts
this damage leads to the buildup of plaque along the artery wall. Plaque is a substance
made of cholesterol and other fatty deposits. Plaque narrows the arteries that send
to your heart muscle. This is called atherosclerosis.
Narrowed artery. As more plaque builds up, an artery has
trouble sending blood to your heart muscle when it's needed the most, such as during
exercise. You may not feel any symptoms when this happens. Or you may feel pressure,
tightness, aching, or pain in your chest, jaw, neck, back, or arm. This is called
Blocked artery. A piece of plaque can break off. This is
called ruptured plaque. It can fully block the artery. But more often, a blood clot
on a piece of ruptured plaque. Together these block the narrowed artery. Then blood
reach the heart muscle. Right away, part of the heart muscle becomes damaged and stops
working. You may feel crushing pressure or pain in or around your chest. This is a
attack (acute myocardial infarction). It’s a medical emergency.