What is Coronary Artery Disease?
To better understand coronary disease, let’s first see how the heart works:
Your heart is a muscle pumping blood through your body. Blood moves through four chambers in the normal heart: the atria which collect blood and the ventricles which pump blood. The pumped blood that comes back to the right side of the heart from the body is low in oxygen. The right side of the heart moves the blood through two chambers -- the right atrium and the right ventricle -- to get the blood into the lungs. There, the blood again fills with oxygen. The blood then travels through the left atrium into the left ventricle, which pumps the oxygen-rich blood back into the body.
Your heart has four valves that open in sequence to allow blood to move through the heart chambers and to prevent blood from leaking backward.
The two valves on the heart’s right side are the tricuspid valve, connecting the right atrium to the right ventricle, and the pulmonary valve, connecting the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery, which delivers blood to the lungs.
The two valves on the heart’s left side are 1) the mitral valve, connecting the left atrium to the left ventricle, and 2) the aortic valve, connecting the left ventricle to the aorta, which delivers blood to the body.
When the oxygen-rich blood comes out of the left ventricle into the aorta, the first artery branches from the aorta are the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood. Disease of these coronary arteries remains the primary cause of death in this country.