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Q.

What causes coronary heart disease?

 

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A.

Research suggests that coronary heart disease (CHD) starts when certain factors damage the inner layers of the coronary arteries. These factors include:

  • Smoking
  • High levels of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood
  • High blood pressure
  • High levels of sugar in the blood due to insulin resistance or diabetes
  • When damage occurs, your body starts a healing process. The healing may cause plaque to build up where the arteries are damaged.

The buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries may start in childhood. Over time, plaque can narrow or block some of your coronary arteries. This reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle.

Eventually, an area of plaque can rupture (break open). If this happens, blood cell fragments called platelets (PLATE-lets) will stick to the site of the injury and may clump together to form blood clots. Blood clots narrow the coronary arteries even more and worsen angina or cause a heart attack.

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