The heart is a hollow muscular organ that pumps blood for circulation to all parts of the body. The coronary arteries branch off the aorta and are located on the surface of the heart. They deliver oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. There are two major coronary arteries, the right and the left. The left splits into two arteries called the circumflex artery supplying the left and posterior sides of the heart and the left anterior descending artery supplying the front of the heart. The right supplies the posterior side of the heart. Atherosclerosis occurs as a result of atherogenesis or accumulation of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium and other substances which may build up in the inner lining of the coronary artery resulting in plaque formation. Atherosclerosis produces an area in the vessel wall which may act as a focus for atherosclerotic events. Walls with high lipid content tend to rupture, activating clot formation or thrombosis. Although blood flow may not be obstructed at rest or on exercise by a plain plaque, plaque rupture and thrombosis can block the artery at sites where the stenosis had occurred. Smoking, high blood pressure, diet high in fat, elevated cholesterol level, diabetes, heredity, and age are risk factors for myocardial infarction. Men are more susceptible than women. Women are more likely to experience atypical symptoms of MI compared to men. The commonly exhibited atypical symptoms by women include shoulder and neck pain, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Many of the risk factors are linked to obesity. Thrombosis forms when the surface of a plaque ruptures. When this occurs in the coronary artery, it results in the massive decrease or complete obstruction of blood supply to that part of the heart. This leads to the heart muscle or myocardium being starved of oxygen.
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