What is atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is a narrowing of the arteries caused by a buildup of plaque. It’s also called arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients from your heart to the rest of your body.

As you get older, fat and cholesterol can collect in your arteries and form plaque. The buildup of plaque makes it difficult for blood to flow through your arteries. This buildup may occur in any artery in your body and can result in a shortage of blood and oxygen in various tissues of your body. Pieces of plaque can also break off, causing a blood clot.

Atherosclerosis can lead to heart attack, stroke, or heart failure if left untreated.

Atherosclerosis is a fairly common problem associated with aging. This condition can be prevented, and many successful treatment options exist.

What are the types of atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis occurs when fat, cholesterol, and calcium harden in your arteries. Atherosclerosis can occur in an artery located anywhere in your body, including your heart, legs, and kidneys.

Atherosclerosis can cause the following diseases

Coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease occurs when the coronary arteries of your heart become hard. The coronary arteries are blood vessels that provide your heart’s muscle tissue with oxygen and blood. Plaque prevents blood flow to the heart.

Carotid artery disease

The carotid arteries are found in your neck and supply blood to your brain. These arteries may be compromised if plaque builds up in their walls. The lack of circulation may reduce how much blood and oxygen reaches your brain’s tissue and cells.

Peripheral artery disease

Your legs, arms, and lower body depend on your arteries to supply blood and oxygen to their tissues. Hardened arteries can cause < a href="">circulation problems in these areas of the body.

Kidney disease

The renal arteries supply blood to your kidneys. Kidneys filter waste products and extra water from your blood. Atherosclerosis of these arteries may lead to kidney failure.

Atherosclerosis is a process which occurs on the arterial walls of the body. The risks for developing atherosclerosis increase with age. Harmful fats become deposited in plaque form on the internal walls of the arteries, these plaques are called atheroma.

The presence of these plaques renders the arterial canal narrow, and in this way, the amount of blood and oxygen that can flow through is limited. This process also increases risks to develop a thrombus, a blood clot. This is especially dangerous for vital organs, such as the heart and brain. In its early stages, atherosclerosis is asymptomatic, hence individuals should take special care with their diet, and treatment of chronic diseases when reaching a certain age.

Atherosclerosis constitutes a potential risk for every serious cardiovascular and brain disease.

Cardiovascular disease includes:

  1. Coronary heart disease
  2. Angina pectoris (chest pains, which may become a factor for developing an infarction or a heart attack)
  3. Transitory ischemia
  4. Diseases of the peripheral arteries

Atherosclerosis is a potentially serious condition where arteries become clogged with fatty substances called plaques, or atheroma.

These plaques cause the arteries to harden and narrow, restricting the blood flow and oxygen supply to vital organs, and increasing the risk of Arterial thrombosis that could potentially block the flow of blood to the heart or brain.

Atherosclerosis doesn't tend tohave any symptoms at first, and many people may be unaware they have it, but it can eventually causelife-threatening problems such as heart attacks and strokes if it gets worse.

However, the condition is largely preventable with a healthy lifestyle, and treatment can help reduce the risk of serious problems occurring.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 18 Jan 2017