The heart muscle needs a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood. The coronary arteries (see Biology of the Heart and Blood Vessels: Blood Supply of the Heart), which branch off the aorta just after it leaves the heart, deliver this blood. Coronary artery disease can block blood flow, causing chest pain (angina) or a heart attack (also called myocardial infarction, or MI).

Coronary artery disease was once widely thought to be a man's disease. On average, men develop it about 10 years earlier than women because, until menopause, women are protected by high levels of estrogen. However, after menopause, coronary artery disease becomes more common among women. Among people aged 75 and older, a higher proportion of women have the disease, because women live longer.

In developed countries, coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women. Coronary artery disease, specifically coronary atherosclerosis (literally “hardening of the arteries,” which involves fatty deposits in the artery walls and may progress to narrowing and even blockage of blood flow in the artery), occurs in about 5 to 9% (depending on sex and race) of people aged 20 and older. The death rate increases with age and overall is higher for men than for women, particularly between the ages of 35 and 55. After age 55, the death rate for men declines, and the rate for women continues to climb. After age 70 to 75, the death rate for women exceeds that for men who are the same age.

Causes

Coronary artery disease is almost always due to the gradual buildup of cholesterol and other fatty materials (called atheromas or atherosclerotic plaques) in the wall of a coronary artery. This process is called atherosclerosis (see Atherosclerosis) and can affect many arteries, not just those of the heart.

Occasionally, however, coronary artery disease is caused by spasm of a coronary artery, which can occur spontaneously, or from use of certain drugs such as cocaine and nicotine. Rarely, the cause is a birth defect, a viral infection (such as Kawasaki disease), systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), inflammation of the arteries (arteritis), a blood clot that traveled from a heart chamber into one of the coronary arteries, or physical damage (from an injury or radiation therapy).

As an atheroma grows, it may bulge into the artery, narrowing the interior (lumen) of the artery and partially blocking blood flow. With time, calcium accumulates in the atheroma. As an atheroma blocks more and more of a coronary artery, the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle (myocardium) can become inadequate. The blood supply is more likely to be inadequate during exertion, when the heart muscle requires more blood. An inadequate blood supply to the heart muscle (from any cause) is called myocardial ischemia. If the heart does not receive enough blood, it can no longer contract and pump blood normally.

An atheroma, even one that is not blocking very much blood flow, may rupture suddenly. The rupture of an atheroma often triggers the formation of a blood clot (thrombus). The clot further narrows or completely blocks the artery, causing acute myocardial ischemia. The consequences of this acute ischemia are referred to as acute coronary syndromes (see Coronary Artery Disease: Acute Coronary Syndromes (Heart Attack; Myocardial Infarction; Unstable Angina)). These syndromes include unstable angina and several types of heart attack, depending on the location and degree of the blockage. In a heart attack, the area of the heart muscle supplied by the blocked artery dies.

Find powerful herbal remedies Herbal Treatment for Coronary Artery Disease

Herbal Remedies for Heart Care:

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has a tonic effect on the heart, lowers cholesterol and inhibits blood platelet collection. Ayurvedic physicians suggest that eating a little bit of ginger every day will help to prevent heart attack.

Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) Arjuna is a coronary vasodilator. It protects the heart, strengthens circulation, and helps to maintain the tone and health of the heart muscle. It is also useful in stopping bleeding and to promote healing after a heart attack. Current scientific research has proved that T.arjuna contains specific medically active constituents namely triterpine glycosides like arjunetosides I, II, III, IV, arjunine and arjunetein. Bark of Arjuna tree has been found to be rich in Co-enzyme Q-10 which is highly prescribed in cardiology departments now a days to prevent heart problems

Garlic (Allium sativum), (Lasuna) Garlic is a wonder drug for heart. Clinical trials have shown that fresh garlic and garlic supplements may lower cholesterol levels, prevent blood clots, and destroy plaque. When people with high blood pressure were given one clove of garlic a day for 12 weeks, their diastolic blood pressure and cholesterol levels were significantly reduced.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) A unique herb with anti-stress adaptogenic action that leads to better physical fitness and helps cope with life's daily stress. It is especially beneficial in stress related disorders such as arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, general debility.

Guggul (Commiphora mukul) It has been shown to lower blood-fat levels while raising levels of HDL, the so called “good cholesterol”. It is useful in atherosclerosis, psoriasis and cardiac ischemia.

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