Appointments

866.320.4573

Submit a Form

Questions

800.223.2273

Submit a Form

Expand Content

Development

What is coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease is the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries caused by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis (sometimes called “hardening” or “clogging” of the arteries) is the buildup of cholesterol and fatty deposits (called plaque) on the inner walls of the arteries that restricts blood flow to the heart.

Without adequate blood, the heart becomes starved of oxygen and the vital nutrients it needs to work properly. This can cause chest pain called angina. When one or more of the coronary arteries are completely blocked, a heart attack (injury to the heart muscle) may occur.

The process of coronary artery disease

1. Your coronary arteries are shaped like hollow tubes through which blood can flow freely. The walls of the coronary arteries are normally smooth and elastic.


2. Coronary artery disease starts when you are very young. Before your teen years, the blood vessel walls begin to show streaks of fat.


3. With coronary artery disease, as you get older, the fat builds up, causing slight injury to your blood vessel walls. In an attempt to heal the blood vessel walls, the cells release chemicals that make the blood vessel walls stickier. Other substances traveling through your blood stream, such as inflammatory cells, cellular waste products, proteins and calcium, begin to stick to the vessel walls. The fat and other substances combine to form a material called plaque.


4. Over time, with coronary artery disease, the inside of the arteries develop plaques of different sizes. Many of the plaque deposits are soft on the inside with a hard fibrous “cap” covering the outside. If the hard surface cracks or tears, the soft, fatty inside is exposed. Platelets (disc-shaped particles in the blood that aid clotting) come to the area, and blood clots form around the plaque.


5. This causes the artery to narrow even more. Sometimes, the blood clot breaks apart, and blood supply is restored.


6. In other cases, the blood clot may totally block the blood supply to the heart muscle, called a coronary thrombus or coronary occlusion - causing an acute coronary syndrome.


If you need more information or would like to make an appointment with a specialist, contact us, chat online with a nurse or call the Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute Resource & Information Nurse at 216.445.9288 or toll-free at 866.289.6911. We would be happy to help you.

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

© Copyright 2010 Cleveland Clinic. All rights reserved. 01/10

Talk to a Nurse: Mon. - Fri., 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. (ET)

Call a Heart & Vascular Nurse locally 216.445.9288 or toll-free 866.289.6911.

Schedule an Appointment

Toll-free 800.659.7822

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

© Copyright 2014 Cleveland Clinic. All rights reserved.

HealthHub from Cleveland Clinic

Read the Latest from Our Experts About cctopics » Heart & Vascular Health
Heart-Healthy Cooking: Oils 101
10/1/14 8:00 a.m.
Confused about which oils are heart-healthy and which aren’t? Health Hub asked for advice from James D. Perko, CEC, AAC, Executive Chef, for Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Ins...
by The Beating Edge Team
Unique Pacemaker Therapy Benefits Women Heart Patients
9/30/14 8:02 a.m.
A unique pacemaker coupled with an implanted defibrillator benefits women with a specific kind of heart failure...
How Modern Imaging Technology Enhances Your Heart Surgery
9/25/14 8:11 a.m.
Today, advances in digital imaging enhance the surgeon’s vision, allowing us to see the heart better than ever ...
The Surprising Scoop on Salt in Your Diet (Video)
9/24/14 8:15 a.m.
Salt is portrayed as the villain in many stories in the media that tout healthy eating habits. But not everyone...
Sports Beat: What to Expect When Your Doctor Orders an ECG
9/22/14 8:22 a.m.
Back to school time means back to sports. Before training begins you will often be required to complete a pre-p...