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Heart Disease
(Coronary Artery Disease)

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What is heart disease?

The heart is like any other muscle in body and it requires adequate blood supply to provide oxygen to allow the muscle to contract and pump. Not only does the heart pump blood to the rest of the body, it also pumps blood to itself via the coronary arteries. These arteries originate from the aorta (the major blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood away from the heart) and then branch out along the surface of the heart.

Picture of a cross section of the heart.
Picture of a cross section of the heart.

When one or more coronary arteries narrow, it may make it difficult for adequate blood to reach the heart, especially during exercise. This can cause the heart muscle to ache like any other muscle in the body. Should the arteries continue to narrow, it may take less activity to stress the heart and provoke symptoms. The classic symptoms of chest pain and shortness of breath due to atherosclerotic or coronary artery disease are called angina.

Should one of the coronary arteries become completely blocked, usually due to a blood clot that forms, blood supply to part of the heart muscle is completely lost and that piece of muscle dies. This is called a heart attack or myocardial infarction (myo=muscle + cardia=heart + infarction= tissue death).

Heart disease, for this article, will be limited to describing the spectrum of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries that ranges from minimal blockage that may produce no symptoms to complete obstruction that presents as a myocardial infarction. Other topics, such as myocarditis, heart valve problems, and congenital heart defects will not be covered.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/21/2014

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Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/heart_disease_coronary_artery_disease/article.htm

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