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Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary heart disease is also called coronary artery disease. It is the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S.

Coronary heart disease is when the innermost layer of the coronary arteries becomes inflamed and narrowed. This is caused by a buildup of fatty deposits called plaque. These deposits may start in childhood and continue to thicken and enlarge throughout the life span. This thickening is called atherosclerosis. It can cut or block blood flow to the heart. A blood clot may also form on top of the plaque. Either of these can lead to a heart attack and even death.

The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle. Like all other tissues in the body, the heart muscle needs oxygen-rich blood to work, and oxygen-depleted blood must be carried away. The coronary arteries run along the outside of the heart. They have small branches that supply blood to the heart muscle. The 2 main coronary arteries are the left main and right coronary arteries.

What causes coronary heart disease?

The most common cause of coronary heart disease is atherosclerosis. That’s when the inner lining of an artery becomes inflamed and builds up with plaque. It causes the artery to narrow or become blocked.

Who is at risk for coronary heart disease?

You may be at risk for coronary heart disease if you:

  • Smoke
  • Have high LDL cholesterol, high triglyceride levels, and low HDL cholesterol
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Are not physically active
  • Are obese or overweight
  • Eat a diet high in saturated fat
  • Have diabetes
  • Have a family history of heart disease

For more information on this topic, visit our Health Libary.