Coronary Artery Disease

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The heart is a muscle that pumps blood throughout the body. The blood carries oxygen and nutrients that the body needs to work properly. The vessels that supply this blood to the heart are called coronary arteries. If these arteries become narrowed or blocked, the heart is not able to pump enough blood to meet the body’s demand for oxygen and nutrients. This impairment of blood flow is called coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is the most common form of heart disease. It affects 16.8 million people in the United States and causes more than 607,000 deaths annually (LeMone, Burke & Bauldoff, 2010). Increasing public awareness (of symptoms and risk factors), along with early diagnosis and improved medical treatment are helping decrease the death rate from CAD. CAD is usually due to atherosclerosis, which is a formation of plaque on the artery walls, causing them to narrow. Plaque is made up of cholesterol and fatty deposits that collect over time in the wall of a coronary artery. As the plaque narrows the lumen of the coronary artery, it makes it difficult for adequate quantities of blood to flow to the heart. Initially, the reduction of blood flow may not produce any symptoms. However, a gradual reduction of blood flow can cause angina and shortness of breath. If the artery becomes completely blocked, a myocardial infarction (MI) can occur. This can result in permanent damage to the heart. It is possible to have a MI without experiencing any symptoms. Although the causes of atherosclerosis are unknown, there are certain risk factors linked to its development. Nonmodifiable risk factors include a family history of heart disease and age. Over 50% of MI victims are 65 or older; 80% of deaths due to MI occur in this age group (LeMone, Burke & Bauldoff, 2010). Modifiable risk factors, including disease conditions, are hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia,

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