Alternate Names : Arteriosclerosis, Hardening of the arteries, Plaque buildup - arteries
Atherosclerosis is a condition in which fatty material collects along the walls of arteries. This fatty material thickens, hardens (forms calcium deposits), and may eventually block the arteries.
Atherosclerosis is a type of arteriosclerosis. The two terms are often used to mean the same thing.
Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Atherosclerosis is a common disorder of the arteries. It occurs when fat, cholesterol, and other substances build up in the walls of arteries and form hard structures called plaques.
Eventually, the plaques can make the artery narrow and less flexible, making it harder for blood to flow. If the coronary arteries become narrow, blood flow to the heart can slow down or stop. This can cause chest pain (stable angina), shortness of breath, heart attack, and other symptoms.
Pieces of plaque can break off and move through the bloodstream (embolization). This is a common cause of heart attack and stroke. Blood clots can also form around a tear (fissure) in the plaque. Clots block blood flow. If the clot moves into an artery in the heart, lungs, or brain, it can cause a stroke, heart attack, or pulmonary embolism.
Risk factors for atherosclerosis include:
Atherosclerosis can affect many different organ systems, including the heart, lungs, brain, intestines, kidneys, and limbs (extremities).
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