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Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease (also known as coronary heart disease) is the most common type of heart disease and is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. Each year, more than 700,000 Americans suffer a heart attack. Heart attacks occur when arterial (blood vessel) blockages stop blood and oxygen from reaching the heart muscle – as when a clogged fuel line stops a car engine. The blockage of the coronary arteries is commonly due to atherosclerosis, or a buildup of plaque in the arteries. The process of plaque building up and causing a thickening and narrowing of the arteries begins long before a heart attack occurs. In fact, it is a gradual process that may start as early as childhood.

Coronary artery disease is also the leading cause of heart failure, a condition where the heart does not pump blood effectively. Heart failure can develop after a heart attack as heart muscle becomes injured; scar tissue replaces functional muscle; and the main heart chamber, or left ventricle, is thereby weakened and less able to pump blood forward. Over time, the weakened heart will struggle to keep up with the normal demands of the body in regard to blood flow and oxygen delivery. 

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