ThedaCare Health Matters

February is heart health month. Heart disease is prevalent and is ultimately the leading cause of death in America. It is reported that there are about 600,000 deaths per year from all heart disease.

Coronary Artery Disease is the most common of the heart diseases with about 735,000 heart attacks and 370,000 deaths attributed to CAD per year. Much of medical care at this time is focused on prevention and treatment of CAD.

The coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with oxygen and nutrition required to keep it functioning properly. There are two main coronary arteries that conduct blood from the aorta to the heart muscle. The heart muscle depends on these arteries and their branches to bring a continuous supply of blood filled with oxygen and nutrients. If these arteries become narrowed, the supply of blood can be compromised and cause chest pain with exertion and decreased function of the heart muscle. If the blood vessel becomes occluded (the medical term for blocked), the heart muscle is damaged and begins to die. This is known as a myocardial infarction or a heart attack.

Occlusion of a coronary artery is a complex process. It is felt that the process is initiated by some inflammation or injury to the wall of the blood vessel that triggers a clot to form. The thinking is that a cholesterol plaque may rupture and trigger the clot to form. Cholesterol deposits and calcium deposits in the blood vessel make the risk of a clot higher.

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