Understand Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
Coronary artery disease, or CAD, is a build-up of fat and cholesterol in the arteries that supply blood to your heart. These deposits (called plaques) grow slowly, clogging the heart arteries. If a heart artery is severely blocked, it reduces blood flow to the heart and can cause chest pain or even a heart attack.
But it's not just large plaques that spell trouble.
Even moderate-size plaques can be dangerous if they become inflamed. These types of plaques are often soft, filled with liquid fat and covered with a fragile cap that can rupture and suddenly reduce blood flow to the heart. When an inflamed plaque ruptures, the top of the plaque partially blocks blood flow, while the liquid fat causes blood to clot at the site of injury. A blood clot
that completely blocks the artery can result in a heart attack, but smaller clots can seriously impair blood flow and cause chest pain (angina
), as the heart is deprived of the oxygen-rich blood it needs.
Heart disease is the most common cause of death among both men and women, claiming the lives of more than a half-million Americans each year. Fortunately, more and more people with CAD are living long and active lives, thanks to remarkable advances in diagnosis and treatment.
There are many resources available to you for learning more about coronary artery disease, and an entire team of doctors, nurses and other healthcare specialists who can help you to make healthy changes in your life.