Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD; also atherosclerotic heart disease) is the end result of the accumulation of atheromatous plaques within the walls of the coronary arteries that supply the myocardium (the muscle of the heart) with oxygen and nutrients. It is sometimes also called coronary heart disease (CHD). Although CAD is the most common cause of CHD, it is not the only one.

CAD is the leading cause of death worldwide. While the symptoms and signs of coronary artery disease are noted in the advanced state of disease, most individuals with coronary artery disease show no evidence of disease for decades as the disease progresses before the first onset of symptoms, often a "sudden" heart attack, finally arises. After decades of progression, some of these atheromatous plaques may rupture and (along with the activation of the blood clotting system) start limiting blood flow to the heart muscle. The disease is the most common cause of sudden death, and is also the most common reason for death of men and women over 20 years of age. According to present trends in the United States, half of healthy 40-year-old males will develop CAD in the future, and one in three healthy 40-year-old women. According to the Guinness Book of Records, Northern Ireland is the country with the most occurrences of CAD. By contrast, the Maasai of Africa have almost no heart disease.

As the degree of coronary artery disease progresses, there may be near-complete obstruction of the lumen of the coronary artery, severely restricting the flow of oxygen-carrying blood to the myocardium. Individuals with this degree of coronary artery disease typically have suffered from one or more myocardial infarctions (heart attacks), and may have signs and symptoms of chronic coronary ischemia, including symptoms of angina at rest and flash pulmonary edema.

A distinction should be made between myocardial ischemia and myocardial infarction. Ischemia means that the amount of blood supplied to the tissue is inadequate to supply the needs of the tissue. When the myocardium becomes ischemic, it does not function optimally. When large areas of the myocardium becomes ischemic, there can be impairment in the relaxation and contraction of the myocardium. If the blood flow to the tissue is improved, myocardial ischemia can be reversed. Infarction means that the tissue has undergone irreversible death due to lack of sufficient oxygen-rich blood.

An individual may develop a rupture of an atheromatous plaque at any stage of the spectrum of coronary artery disease. The acute rupture of a plaque may lead to an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack).

This text uses material from Wikipedia licensed under CC BY-SA

Latest Spotlight News

Ebola vaccine promising in first human trials

Researchers say they are one step closer to developing a viable Ebola vaccine, with a Phase 1 trial showing promising results, but it will still be months at least before it could be used in the field.

Elderly brains learn, but maybe too much

A new study led by Brown University reports that older learners retained the mental flexibility needed to learn a visual perception task but were not as good as younger people at filtering out irrelevant ...

How various brain areas interact in decisions

Our decisions can be pictured in the brain. Scientists at the University of Zurich were able to show in a recent study which areas are most active in decision making. Often the so-called prefrontal cortex ...

Study unlocks basis of key immune protein's two-faced role

A Brigham and Women's Hospital-led team has identified a long sought-after partner for a key immune protein, called TIM-3, that helps explain its two-faced role in the immune system—sometimes dampening it, other times stimulating ...

A game changer to boost literacy and maths skills

(Medical Xpress)—Finding the best way to teach reading has been an ongoing challenge for decades, especially for those children in underprivileged areas who fail to learn to read. What is the magic ingredient that will ...