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Coronary artery disease (CAD) is also referred to as a narrowing of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. This can be caused by factors such as high cholesterol, other blood fats or even a calcium build up. When enough of these substances build up on the wall of the arteries (in the form of plaque), it makes it difficult for the blood to circulate through. Eventually, it can cause a hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and they lose their flexibility.

Sometimes the plaque will break off and cause a blood clot leading to restricted blood flow. This may lead to a heart attack (myocardial infarction) due to the death of the heart muscle that would have been supplied by the now blocked artery.

Several tests can be performed in an emergency department setting to determine if a heart attack is occurring. These tests include blood tests to detect certain substances in the blood, electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG) to reveal changes in heart rhythm, nuclear, x-ray, echocardiogram or arteriogram studies to show changes in the structure of the heart.

Treatment for coronary artery disease may include dietary changes, medications, stents, angioplasty, bypass surgery or long term treatment with medications.