Heart disease describes a variety of disorders and conditions that can affect the heart. The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease.
The word 'coronary' means crown, and it is the name given to the arteries that circle the heart like a crown. The coronary arteries supply the heart muscle with oxygen and nutrients.
Coronary heart disease develops when one or more of the coronary arteries that supply the blood to the heart become narrower than they used to be. This happens because of a buildup of cholesterol and other substances in the wall of the blood vessel, affecting the blood flow to the heart muscle.
- Deposits of cholesterol and other fat-like substances can build up in the inner lining of these blood vessels and become coated with scar tissue, forming a bump in the blood vessel wall known as plaque.
- Plaque build-up narrows and hardens the blood vessel, a process called
atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
- Eventually these plaque deposits can build up to significantly reduce or block blood flow to the heart.
Many people experience chest pain or discomfort from inadequate blood flow to the heart, especially during exercise when the heart needs more oxygen. Without an adequate blood supply, heart muscle tissue can be damaged.
Although we typically think of atherosclerosis as a disease of old age, the process begins as early as childhood, making prevention of coronary heart disease a priority for everyone.
It's not easy to tell if you have coronary heart disease, since the disease rarely causes symptoms in its early stages. That is why it's important to see your physician regularly and evaluate your diet and lifestyle habits. Your physician can detect early warning signs of CHD, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.
Need To Know:
What happens as coronary heart disease gets worse?
As coronary heart disease develops, more damage to the heart occurs and the following conditions may develop:
For more detailed information on heart attack, go to Heart Attack.
Nice To Know:
The majority of people with heart problems suffer from coronary heart disease, but there also are other types of heart disease. These include:
Facts About Heart Disease