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Coronary Artery Disease
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Home : General public : What causes CAD?
What causes CAD?

The causes of coronary artery disease

Cardiovascular illnesses do not have a single cause!

For men and women, the risk factors accumulate to create the disease.
They are accelerators of the formation of atheroma.
We are used to a different reasoning when dealing with infectious diseases: a microbe = an illness! Here several factors may cause your arteries to deteriorate.



What is a cardiovascular risk factor?

It is quite simply a personal characteristic that makes you more likely to suffer a cardiovascular accident some day.
Risk factors have been identified by epidemiological studies; these studies have looked into the lifestyles (smoking, sport, dietů) and the state of health (weight, blood pressure, cholesterol) of very many people based on a questionnaire and medical examinations. They were then followed up for several years to see what happened to each of them.
This has resulted in the availability of detailed information about the antecedents in terms of state of health and lifestyles of people who have suffered a cardiovascular accident compared to those who have not. Comparisons can also be made between what happened to people who smoked compared to those who did not, between the overweight and the slim, etc.


The lipids profile is composed of the levels of four kinds of fats present in the blood: LDL-cholesterol (also known as ‘bad cholesterol’), HDL-cholesterol (also known as ‘good cholesterol’), total cholesterol and triglycerides. When these figures are abnormal, it is the doctor who must adapt the person’s diet and treatment, often with the help of a dietician.

Atheroma

Atheroma is a fatty deposit (cholesterol). The combination of atheroma and fibrosis (sclerosis) characterises atherosclerosis.
The combination of cholesterol, cells and calcium eventually results in the formation of atheromatous plaques on the artery walls. These plaques reduce the interior diameter of the arteries and gradually obstruct them.
However, an atheromatous plaque may not always develop gradually, it can also rupture suddenly. When the plaque ruptures, the blood-clotting process is triggered. It starts with specific blood cells, called platelets, accumulating at the rupture point.

The platelets and the fatty content of the plaque can then become detached and block an artery with a smaller diameter, which is what is called an embolism. Or a blood clot can form on the plaque itself and suddenly block the artery; this is known as thrombosis.
The formation of atheromatous plaques is a form of ageing of the arteries. The combination of atheroma and fibrosis (sclerosis) characterises atherosclerosis.

The atheromatous plaques, above all when they rupture, cause most cardiovascular accidents, either by obstructing an artery where plaque is situated, or because of an embolism of vessels in an artery located further along the bloodstream. This can occur in a coronary artery (acute coronary syndrome), in a cerebral artery (ischaemic cerebrovascular accident) or in the artery of a limb (acute ischaemia of a limb).

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This site is published and updated by the EUROPA study investigators. Site last updated March 21st 2006
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