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Blocked Arteries (CABG)

Clip Number: 3 of 34
Presentation: CABG With Aortic Balloon Pump
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Reviewed By: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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Now that you have seen how a healthy heart works, let's look at what happens when the coronary arteries become narrowed or blocked.
Heart disease in the coronary arteries occurs when they become clogged from a buildup of cells, fat and cholesterol. This buildup is called plaque. As the inside of the coronary arteries gather plaque and narrow, they decrease the flow of blood and oxygen that nourishes the heart muscle.
Heart muscle requires blood and oxygen to function properly. When you are doing a physical activity or something that is stressful to you, your heart muscle demands more blood and oxygen. But, if the coronary arteries are narrowed, this need cannot always be met. As a result, you may experience symptoms such as angina, or chest pain, irregular heartbeats, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may be temporary and last for only a few minutes. This happens because your heart is experiencing ischemia, which is a temporary lack of oxygen.
However, the longer the heart muscle goes without oxygen, the more serious the consequences. This is the case when arteries become blocked. Over time, the areas not getting enough nourishment can be permanently damaged, meaning that the heart tissue dies. This is what occurs with a heart attack.
Besides leading to a heart attack, lack of oxygen can also result in serious irregular heart rhythms and even loss of life.

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