Heart & Vascular Specialists of Oklahoma
Rakesh Shrivastava MD, FACC • Venkat Rajaram MD, MS
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Oxygen is supplied to your heart by your arteries. Over time a waxy buildup (called Plaque) can occur on the inside of those arteries. Plaque can cause a narrowing in the arteries and reduce the amount of blood flow to the heart. This causes the heart to have to work overtime to do it's job. 

Atherosclerosis (ATH-er-o-skler-O-sis) is the condition that occurs when plaque continues to build up over time.  This conditions greatly reduces the bloodflow to the heart and can rupture. When a rupture occures, a blood clot can form. A blood clot can narrow the arteries or even completely cut off the flow of blood. The buildup of plaque occurs over many years.

Figure A shows the location of the heart in the body. Figure B shows a normal coronary artery with normal blood flow. The inset image shows a cross-section of a normal coronary artery. Figure C shows a coronary artery narrowed by plaque. The buildup of plaque limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood through the artery. The inset image shows a cross-section of the plaque-narrowed artery.

When the flow of blood is blocked, patients can develop Angina (an-JI-nuh or AN-juh-nuh) and may experience a heart attack. People who experience Angina will feel pressure in their chest. They often say if feels similar to having someone sit on the chest. It may be difficult to take a deep breath. There may also be pain the the neck, arms, back or in the jaw. Sometimes Angina is confused with "heartburn" because of the sensation in the chest.  Other symptoms include:
      • Shortness of breath
      • Palpitations (irregular heart beats, skipped beats, or a "flip-flop" feeling in your chest)
      • A faster heartbeat
      • Weakness or dizziness
      • Nausea
      • Sweating

When the blood flow is completely blocked off, a heart attack can occur. Pain is similar to that of Angina, however a large portion of people will have no outward symptoms at all. A heart attack can come without symptoms so it is important to maintain good heart heath. 

CHD can be managed effectively with a combination of lifestyle changes, medicine and, in some cases may require surgery. With the right treatment, the symptoms of CHD can be reduced and the functioning of the heart improved. 

Coronary Artery Disease is one perhaps the most common form of heart disease. It is the #1 cause of death for both men and women in the US. Staying on top of your heart health is the best way to reduce the risk of a catastrophic incident. With proper care, medication and therapy, your doctor should be able to help you manage your disease.