What is Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease?
Arteriosclerotic heart disease is defined by reduced blood flow caused by cholesterol plaques, with or without blood clots, in one or more blood vessels of the heart. This situation can lead to insufficient nutrient delivery to the downstream tissues that can cause three very important complications.
- Congestive heart failure develops if there is sufficient death of heart muscle (myocardial infarction) and subsequent inability of the remaining normal heart tissue to pump enough blood to the body. Tissues that die obviously cannot contract, but there are also areas around the infarction, called the peri-infacrtion area, that are in shock and may not be able to contract because blood flow to them is not sufficiently compromised to kill them. They may eventually recover if blood flow can be re-established.
- Abnormal heart rhythms may arise because peri-infarction tissues are very irritable and electrically unstable. These rhythms can compromise cardiac output and be lethal.
- Angina is the pain caused by insufficient blood flow to an area of the heart. While this is not lethal in itself, it can be very painful and disabling, and is also a warning that there is at least one blood vessel that is severely blocked and in danger of closing off entirely. A mycardial infarction may be impending.