Coronary artery disease is thought to begin with damage or injury to the inner layer of a coronary artery, sometimes as early as childhood. The damage may be caused by various factors, including:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes or insulin resistance
  • Radiation therapy to the chest, as used for certain types of cancer
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Once the inner wall of an artery is damaged, fatty deposits (plaques) made of cholesterol and other cellular waste products tend to accumulate at the site of injury in a process called atherosclerosis. If the surface of these plaques breaks or ruptures, blood cells called platelets will clump at the site to try to repair the artery. This clump can block the artery, leading to a heart attack.

Apr. 12, 2014