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What is Heart Disease


Atherosclerosis:  The Basic Cause of Heart Disease


Atherosclerosis is a long-term disease process in which cholesterol and other substances slowly build up in the inner lining of artery walls.  This buildup is called plaque.  When plaque builds up in an artery to the heart, the artery begins to narrow, reducing the heart's blood supply.  Eventually the artery may become completely closed off, either by the plaque itself or by a blood clot that lodges in the narrowed area.  When the blood supply cannot reach a part of the heart muscle, that part begins to die.  This is called a heart attack.  Similarly, if an artery to the brain becomes clogged, a stroke results.

"Heart Disease" is a vague term.  Many different types of problems can be called heart disease.  All heart disease can be classified within one of four categories:
  1. Diseases of the Arteries
  2. Problems With Heart Valves
  3. Diseases of the Muscle
  4. Problems of the Electrical System
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