What Is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease, also known as CAD, causes 1 in 5 deaths in the United States and remains the single largest killer of men and women. Approximately half of men and a third of women in the U.S. will develop coronary disease during their lifetime. People with coronary artery disease are at increased risk of angina (chest pain), a heart attack, or congestive heart failure

Coronary heart disease is characterized by the accumulation of fatty deposits along the innermost layer of the coronary arteries. 

The fatty deposits may develop in childhood and continue to thicken and enlarge throughout the life span. This thickening, called atherosclerosis, narrows the arteries and can decrease or block the flow of blood to the heart.

Nearly 13 million Americans suffer from CAD - the number one killer of both men and women in the US. 

Coronary disease is also known as:

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • Coronary heart disease (CHD)
  • Atherosclerotic coronary heart disease (ACHD)
  • Atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis
  • "Hardening of the arteries"

What are the coronary arteries?

Coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle. Like all other tissues in the body, the heart muscle needs oxygen-rich blood to function, and oxygen-depleted blood must be carried away. 

The two main coronary arteries are the left and right coronary arteries. The left coronary artery (LCA), which divides into the left anterior descending artery and the circumflex branch, supplies blood to the heart ventricles and left atrium. 

Why are the coronary arteries important?

Since coronary arteries deliver blood to the heart muscle, any coronary artery disorder or disease can have serious implications by reducing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the heart, which may lead to a heart attack and possibly death. 

Atherosclerosis (a build-up of plaque in the inner lining of an artery causing it to narrow or become blocked) is the most common form of coronary artery disease.

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