Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a slow disease in which your arteries become clogged and hardened. It is the underlying cause of most cases of heart attack, stroke, and vascular dementia, and is found in 80 to 90% of Americans over the age of 30. Fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances form plaque, which builds up in arteries. Hard plaque narrows the passage that blood flows through. That causes arteries to become stiff and inflexible (atherosclerosis is also known as hardening of the arteries). It contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in people over 45. Soft plaque is more likely to break free from the artery wall and cause a blood clot, which can block blood flow to vital organs.

The effects of atherosclerosis differ depending upon which arteries in the body narrow and become clogged with plaque. If the arteries that bring oxygen-rich blood to your heart are affected, you may have coronary artery disease, chest pain, or a heart attack. If the arteries to your brain are affected, you may have a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a stroke. If the arteries in your arms or legs are affected, you may develop peripheral artery disease. You may also develop a bulge in the artery wall (aneurysm).

Lowering blood pressure and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, quitting smoking, losing weight, and getting more exercise can prevent atherosclerosis.

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Review Date: 3/25/2015  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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