Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary Heart Disease

Anatomy of the heart, view of the coronary arteries
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What are the coronary arteries?

Coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle. Like all other tissues in the body, the heart muscle needs oxygen-rich blood to function, and oxygen-depleted blood must be carried away. The coronary arteries consist of two main arteries: the right and left coronary arteries. The left coronary artery system branches into the circumflex artery and the left anterior descending artery.

What are the different coronary arteries?

The two main coronary arteries are the left main and right coronary arteries. The left main coronary artery (LMCA) which divides into the left anterior descending artery and the circumflex branch, supplies blood to the left ventricle and left atrium. The right coronary artery (RCA), which divides into the right posterior descending and acute marginal arteries, supplies blood to the right ventricle, right atrium sinoatrial node (cluster of cells in the right atrial wall that regulates the heart's rhythmic rate), and atrioventricular node (AV node, a cluster of cells between the atria and ventricles that regulate the electrical current).

Additional arteries branch off the left main coronary artery to supply the left side of the heart muscle with blood. These include the following:

Smaller branches of the coronary arteries include: acute marginal (AM), posterior descending (PDA), obtuse marginal (OM), septal perforator (SP), and diagonals.

Why are the coronary arteries important?

Since coronary arteries deliver blood to the heart muscle, any coronary artery disorder or disease can have serious implications by reducing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the heart, which may lead to a heart attack and possibly death. Atherosclerosis (a buildup of plaque in the inner lining of an artery causing it to narrow or become blocked) is the most common cause of heart disease.

Illustration of a normal and diseased artery
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What is coronary artery disease?

Coronary heart disease, or coronary artery disease (CAD), is characterized by the accumulation of fatty deposits along the innermost layer of the coronary arteries. The fatty deposits may develop in childhood and continue to thicken and enlarge throughout the life span. This thickening, called atherosclerosis, narrows the arteries and can decrease or block the flow of blood to the heart.

The American Heart Association estimates that 16,300,000 Americans suffer from coronary artery disease--the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S.

What are the risk factors for coronary artery disease?

Risk factors for CAD often include:

Controlling risk factors is the key to preventing illness and death from CAD.

What are the symptoms of coronary artery disease?

The symptoms of coronary heart disease will depend on the severity of the disease. Some persons with CAD have no symptoms, some have episodes of mild chest pain or angina, and some have more severe chest pain.

If too little oxygenated blood reaches the heart, a person will experience chest pain called angina. When the blood supply is completely cut off, the result is a heart attack, and the heart muscle begins to die. Some persons may have a heart attack and never recognize the symptoms. This is called a "silent" heart attack.

When symptoms are present, each person may experience them differently. Symptoms of coronary artery disease may include:

How is coronary artery disease diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for coronary artery disease may include any, or a combination of, the following:

Treatment for coronary heart disease

Specific treatment will be determined by your doctor based on:

Treatment may include:

Click here to view the
Online Resources of Cardiovascular Disease

 

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