In heart disease, what's a clot and what's a clog?

Cardiologists can help you to keep your heart clear of clots and clogs. See more heart health pictures.
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Your heart is an 11-ounce (312-gram) powerhouse that beats ceaselessly even before birth until you take your very last breath [source: Franklin]. It's an amazing and tireless worker, making sure that spent blood arriving from your body returns to the lungs for oxygen, while simultaneously sending newly oxygenated blood back out to the rest of the body.

Over the course of your lifetime, your ticker may beat as many as 3.3 billion times [source: Roizen]. With each beat, chambers are contracting and relaxing, valves are opening and closing, and more than a gallon of blood (3.8 liters) is passing through your heart each minute [source: Bianco].

There's a lot going on in that fist-sized pump. Keeping it humming along requires some maintenance in the form of exercise, good diet and regular medical checkups. Without some tender loving care, your heart can become diseased and lose its ability to function at its optimal level.

Despite our best intentions, sometimes genetics or bad health decisions made when we were younger lead to problems such as coronary artery disease and heart attacks, both of which are the results of clogs and clots. No matter how often these words are thrown at us in discussions on heart health, their exact meanings never seem to stick. Are clogs and clots the same thing? If not, how do they differ, besides on that one letter? Do both lead to heart attacks? Can you have one without the other?

Frankly, neither clogs nor clots are much fun. But with a little knowledge and regular maintenance, the only clots and clogs you'll encounter are when your kitchen sink backs up. In this article, you'll learn what each one is, what they do and where they come from. Continue to the next page, and we'll begin sorting this out by looking at the slower of our two unwelcome guests in the heart -- clogs.