Atherosclerosis, sometimes called "hardening of the arteries,"
occurs when fat (cholesterol) and calcium build up in the inner lining of the
arteries, forming a substance called plaque. Over time, the fat and calcium
buildup narrows the artery and blocks blood flow through it.
When atherosclerosis affects the arteries that
supply blood to the heart, it can restrict blood flow to the heart muscle,
causing heart pain (angina), irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia), and other
problems. Plaque may burst open the artery lining, causing blood clots that can
block blood flow, which in turn may cause a heart attack and cause damage to
the heart muscle. Atherosclerosis in the heart (coronary) arteries is called
coronary artery disease.
atherosclerosis affects the arteries that supply blood to the brain, it may
cause a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke.
can affect arteries in other parts of the body, such as the pelvis and legs,
causing poor circulation, slower healing of skin injuries, and erection
A major part of treating atherosclerosis and coronary artery
disease involves lifestyle changes (such as quitting smoking) and medicines
to help reduce high cholesterol, control high blood pressure, and manage other
things that increase a person's risk of heart attack, stroke, and other
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.