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The lowdown on heart bypass surgery

You've heard of heart bypass surgery. But what exactly does the procedure entail? Bypass surgery is performed when coronary arteries become clogged by the slow buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances. Your healthcare provider may recommend the procedure if you have severe chest pain as a result of a narrowed artery, there is more than one bad artery and the left ventricle isn't operating well or you've had other heart procedures that haven't worked.

To help restore blood flow to heart muscle, a surgeon takes a healthy blood vessel from another part of your body, such as the chest or leg, and attaches it to the aorta, the large artery coming out of the heart. The other end of the blood vessel is attached to the troubled artery, below where it's clogged, allowing blood to bypass the bad area. This operation can help reduce your risk of suffering a heart attack and can reduce symptoms of heart problems, such as chest pain and shortness of breath. Of course, surgery doesn't erase heart disease. You'll still need to revamp your diet and control risk factors, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.