Coronary artery disease (CAD) is actually the single most common killer in the United States, being the leading cause of heart failure. It is linked to severe obesity, lack of exercise and proper nutrition, and generally poor health. Not everyone stricken with CAD is unhealthy, however, and there are hereditary factors unrelated to obesity that may produce a tendency toward the condition.

The condition is named for the arteries that supply fresh oxygenated blood to the heart, which, in those stricken by CAD, exhibit tiny tears on the internal surface of the coronary arteries, which provide a potential foothold for the buildup of arterial plaque. Exhibiting risk factors can lead to more tears than the normal individual, or more of a tendency for these tears to cause more buildup. Arterial plaque, composed of excess blood cholesterol, calcium deposits, and other deposited material, begins to clog the artery until bloodflow to the heart itself is restricted.

This restriction of bloodflow, when partial, can cause noticeable symptoms, which should be learned and recognized, especially by those with special risk. Most notable is constriction or pain in the chest, tending toward the location of the heart (left side, just below breast-level). While the pain may not appear immediately, it will tend to be chronic, so it can be distinguished in this way from normal chest muscle pain. You will also notice that activity winds you far more quickly than before the onset of the pain. If you have serious chest pain that lasts more than ten minutes, you should see a doctor or go to the emergency room. Take aspirin to thin the blood, if it is available, and call 911.

Full restriction of bloodflow is called a heart attack. This can lead to myocardial infarction, or tissue death of the heart muscle. This can, needless to say, kill you, or leave you especially susceptible to heart problems in the future, as it leaves your heart with nullified or limited functionality.

The best 'treatment' for CAD is to avoid risk factors. Don't smoke, eat right, exercise, and all that good stuff, especially if you have a family history that makes you susceptible. However, other treatments, like angioplasty, may be considered.

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