Coronary artery disease happens in everyone. The speed at which it develops differs from person to person. The process usually starts when you are very young. Before your teen years, the blood vessel walls start to show streaks of fat. As plaque deposits in your artery’s inner walls, your body fights back against this ongoing process by sending white blood cells to attack the cholesterol, but the attack causes more inflammation. This triggers yet other cells in the artery wall to form a soft cap over the plaque.
This thin cap over the plaque can break open (due to blood pressure or other causes). Blood cell fragments called platelets stick to the site of “the injury,” causing a clot to form. The clot further narrows arteries. Sometimes a blood clot breaks apart on its own. Other times the clot blocks blood flow through the artery, depriving the heart of oxygen and causing a heart attack.