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Coronary artery disease (CAD) is blockage of the vessels which supply the heart with blood. This disease process is called "arteriosclerosis", or commonly "hardening of the arteries". In this process, cholesterol and other fats are deposited in the layers of the arteries, narrowing the channel for blood to flow.

CAD occurs to some degree as a natural result of aging. There are several reasons, called "risk factors", that it may occur at a younger age or to a more severe degree. Some of these factors can be changed, and some cannot.

Things we can't change

Things we can change, or at least control:

Blockages begin to occur at an early age. "Fatty streaks" can be demonstrated in teenagers. A little bit of blockage is generally harmless. If the vessel becomes narrowed by 50% or so, there can be less blood flow than needed at periods of increased need, such as exercise. When the vessel is narrowed 90%, there is the potential for lack of blood supply at rest. When the vessel becomes 100% closed, a heart attack ("myocardial infarction") generally occurs. If the vessel closes gradually, the muscle may obtain flow from other vessels ("collateral circulation"), in a sense "doing its own bypass".
ęCOPY;1997 HeartPoint    Updated July 1997

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This site presents material for your information, education and entertainment. We can assume no liability for inaccuracies, errors, or omissions. Above all, material on this site should not take the place of the care you receive from a personal physician. It is simply designed to help in the understanding of the heart and heart disease, and not as a diagnostic or therapeutic aid. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Please feel free to browse the site and download material for personal and non-commercial use. You may not however distribute, modify, transmit or reuse any of these materials for public or commercial use. You should assume that all contents of the site are copyrighted. ęCOPY;1997 HeartPoint