The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle. CAD is damage or disease of these arteries. These changes slow or stop the flow of blood.
Regular blood flow is needed to bring oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. Without this supply the heart muscle cannot work well. A lack of oxygen can also lead to damage or death of heart muscle. Blood flow changes can lead to:
CAD is the most common life-threatening disease in the US.
A narrowing of the blood vessels called atherosclerosis is the most common cause of CAD. This is a buildup of plaque on the walls of the blood vessels. The plaque begins because of:
After an injury tissue collects or is deposited at the site. This helps the blood vessel heal. However, it can also make it easier for substances in the blood to stick to the area. Substances may include LDL "bad" cholesterol and cells linked to inflammation. They can remain even after the injury has healed. Over time, more substances can get trapped. Together they form plaque. The plaque irritates the blood vessel walls. This causes more injury and creates a new cycle that develops more plaque. The blood vessel opening gets more narrow with each layer of plaque. Damage to blood vessels can occur from multiple factors such as:
Damage to blood vessels can occur from multiple factors such as:
Blocked Coronary Artery
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Angina (chest pain). American Heart Association website. Available at:
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Updated December 14, 2017. Accessed March 5, 2018.
Coronary artery disease (CAD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116156/Coronary-artery-disease-CAD . Updated February 28, 2018. Accessed March 5, 2018.
Coronary heart disease. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/coronary-heart-disease. Accessed March 5, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 3/15/2015