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Diseases of the Arteries

Diseases of the arteries, specifically the coronary arteries, generally refer to the buildup of cholesterol in the inside layers of the arteries.  Like any muscle, the heart needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients that are carried to it by the blood in the coronary arteries.  When the coronary arteries become narrowed or clogged and cannot supply enough blood to the heart, the result is coronary artery disease.

If not enough oxygen-carrying blood reaches the heart, the heart may respond with pain called angina.  The pain is usually felt in the chest or sometimes in the left arm and shoulder.  (However, the same inadequate blood supply may cause no symptoms, a condition called silent angina.)  When the blood supply is cut off completely, the result is a heart attack.

The part of the heart that does not receive oxygen begins to die, and some of the heart muscle may be permanently damaged.  Forms of treatment for heart disease of the arteries are percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, also known as PTCA, and coronary artery balloon dilation or balloon angioplasty.  About 70-90 percent of these procedures also involve the placement of a stent, a wire mesh tube used to prop open an artery that stays in the artery permanently, holds it open, and improves blood flow to the heart muscle.  Blockage could possibly grow through the wire mesh over time.  Bypass surgery, also known as coronary bypass, is another form of treatment.