What are inflamed plaques in arteries?

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Plaques, which are a build-up of fat and cholesterol in the arteries, can restrict blood flow to the heart and can cause chest pain or even a heart attack. But it is not just large plaques that spell trouble. Even moderate-sized plaques can be dangerous if they become inflamed. Plaques that are inflamed are often soft, filled with liquid fat and covered with a fragile cap (somewhat like a blister). These types of plaques can rupture and suddenly reduce blood flow to the heart, causing painful and frightening symptoms. When an inflamed plaque ruptures, the top of the plaque partially obstructs blood flow, while the liquid fat in the plaque causes blood to clot in the artery. A blood clot that completely blocks the artery can result in a heart attack, but smaller clots can seriously impair blood flow and cause chest pain (angina), as the heart is deprived of the oxygen-rich blood it needs.
 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.