Plaque in Your Arteries Can Cause a Heart Attack

Atherosclerosis is a process in which fatty plaque can build up in the body’s arteries, usually due to a combination of genetics, high levels of cholesterol, smoking, and other lifestyle factors. Atherosclerosis can even start in childhood, which may result in health problems in adulthood. If the plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, which supply the heart with blood, it can set the stage for a heart attack (also known as a myocardial infarction). A heart attack is a potentially life-threatening event that occurs when a blood clot forms on the surface of arterial plaque, dramatically reducing blood flow to heart tissue. The heart can be permanently damaged without emergency treatment. Heart attacks are sometimes silent, but they often cause symptoms such as chest pain, nausea, and vomiting, among other symptoms.

The following information on heart attacks is from our Health A-Z Library.


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