Heart disease or cardiac disease is an outcome of deposition of plaque in the coronary arteries; this condition is called atherosclerosis, which causes blockages. The arteries which were elastic and smooth become rigid and narrow, limiting the blood supply to the cardiac system. The heart is deprived of the vital nutrients and oxygen, which are required for its functioning (pumping). Coronary arteries are the main blood vessels that supply blood, nutrients, and oxygen to the heart; when these vessels get diseased or damaged due to the continuous build up of plaque (deposits of cholesterol), a person may develop coronary artery disease.
The accumulation of plaque narrows the arteries, which causes the cardiac system to receive lesser amount of blood. The decreased blood flow ultimately develops symptoms like shortness of breath, angina (chest pain) or other signs and symptoms of coronary heart disease. A complete clogging may cause a heart attack (cardiac arrest). Since the process of plaque accumulation often occurs gradually, it can remain unnoticed until a person undergoes a cardiac attack. But there are plenty of options to opt for preventing and treating this medical emergency. You can initiate by commending a healthy lifestyle.
About the Cardiac System
The heart is a muscle, which is similar to the size of a fist in an adult human. Normally, it beats nearly 70 times in a minute and provides oxygen rich blood throughout the body. From the heart, the blood travels toward the lungs for collecting oxygen. This oxygenated blood returns from the lungs to the cardiac system and is then pumped to other body organs through the arteries. The blood again returns to the cardiac system through the veins and is then pumped back to the lungs. This entire process in which the blood flows towards the lungs to receive oxygen and then return to the heart and from there gets distributed to the other body parts and then again back to the lungs is called circulation. Heart muscles receive oxygen through the network of blood vessels or coronary artery.
Coronary Artery Disease: How Does it Develop?
The process of cholesterol or plaque buildup in the walls of the blood vessels may begin when a person is young. As the person gets older, the burden of plaque deposits increases, inflaming the blood vessel and elevating the risk of formation of blood clots and thus heart attack. The cholesterol deposits release chemicals that encourage the healing process, but make the inner area of the blood vessel sticky. This stickiness attracts other substances such as calcium, lipoproteins and inflammatory cells that move into the bloodstream towards itself (inside the walls of the blood vessel).
Ultimately, a narrowed artery may produce new blood vessels for supplying blood to the cardiac system. However, in some cases, due to stress and overexertion, the new developed arteries may become unable to supply adequate amount of oxygenated blood to the muscle of the heart. During such times, a blood clot may completely stop the blood flow towards the heart muscle, causing cardiac arrest. If a blood vessel that supplies blood to the heart gets blocked due to the clot, an ischemic stroke may occur. If the arteries within the brain rupture, usually as an outcome of high blood pressure or uncontrolled hypertension, a hemorrhagic stroke may occur.
Facts Related to Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary artery disease can also be called Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), which affects almost 14 million Americans. This disorder develops when many substances such as the plaque (scar tissue), calcium and fatty material accumulate inclusively in the arteries that supply blood to the myocardium (heart muscle). These arteries are responsible for providing oxygen and other nutrients to the myocardium required for pumping blood. Here are a few facts related to the coronary heart disease:
- The plaque starts accumulating over the time and eventually narrows the artery which interrupts the blood supply to the cardiac system.
- This plaque may sometimes completely obstruct blood flow, which may lead a person to myocardial infarction (heart attack) or a sudden cardiac arrest (a fatal disturbance in rhythm).
- Interruption and slowing of blood supply may cause angina or chest pain.
- Coronary heart disease is considered as the major cause of disability and death in Americans. It is one of the seven leading causes of death.
- The heart is divided into four chambers: a ventricle and an atrium on the left and a ventricle and an atrium on the right.
- Blood returning to the cardiac system through the veins from all over the body moves into the right atrium.
- From the right atrium, the blood travels into the right ventricle, which is then pumped again to the lungs for collecting oxygen.
- The oxygenated blood moves into the left atrium and from there it travels into the left ventricle, which is then pumped into the arteries throughout the body with higher pressure.
- This complete procedure generates one heartbeat.
- The process of contraction or pumping of the left ventricle should be very powerful because it is required for keeping the blood moving throughout the body and thus maintaining the normal heart beat.
- The strength and capacity of the heart muscle depends on the nutrients and oxygen supply coming through the coronary arteries.
- Coronary arteries are generally elastic, quite flexible and strong. The cardiac system has three major and prime coronary arteries.
- Among the three major arteries, two arise or are attached with a common stem, which is known as the left main coronary artery.
- The left side of the heart receives blood from the left main coronary artery.
- The back and the left lateral side of the heart receives blood from the LCX (left circumflex).
- The front part of the cardiac system receives blood from the LAD (left anterior descending).
- Ultimately, the RCA (right coronary artery) is separate, and it provides the bottom and the right parts of the cardiac system.
- During childhood, the inner wall of the coronary arteries is smooth, which allows easy blood flow. As a person ages, the accumulation of calcium and cholesterol content in the walls of the arteries increases, which narrows them and makes them less elastic as well as thicker.
- Unhealthy eating habits such as consumption of fats and high cholesterol diet and certain pattern of lifestyle such as lack of exercise, drinking alcohol and smoking can accelerate the fat and calcium deposit within the inner wall of the arteries.
The process of plaque deposition is called hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. These deposits eventually clog the blood vessel and obstruct the flow of blood through the arteries. Plaque deposits are like a rigid shell which has a soft inner core comprising cholesterol. During each heartbeat, as the blood hits these deposits, they may rupture and the inner cholesterol core gets exposed, which results into clotting of blood. Clots may create interruption in the smooth blood supply, causing angina (severe chest pain) or even completely blocking the artery.
Ultimately, it can be said that coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease is caused due to the narrowing of the arteries, which is a result of plaque deposition. Avoiding cholesterol rich and fatty foods can help to prevent this fatal medical condition.