Atherosclerosis

Prevention and treatment can drastically reduce risk for heart disease.

Martha Gulati, MD, FACC, CardioSmart Editor-in-Chief
Learn more about Atherosclerosis

Think of a garden hose. It’s fairly flexible and, if it’s clear of dirt and debris, the water passes through fairly easily. But what happens if gunk or thick paste starts sticking to the inside of the hose? It would make it difficult for the once free-flowing water to move.

This is somewhat similar to what happens when the arteries in our bodies narrow or become hardened. This hardening and narrowing of the arteries—called atherosclerosis—makes it harder for blood to flow through them. 

Atherosclerosis is fairly common, especially as we age. It happens when fat and cholesterol in the blood form plaque which can build up inside the artery walls. If this plaque begins to block the arteries, it can slow and limit the flow of blood to your organs. When this happens it can cause serious problems in blood vessels throughout the body, including heart attack, stroke, peripheral arterial disease and kidney disease.

Many people don’t know they have atherosclerosis until it starts causing health problems. That’s why it’s so important for you to make healthy choices every day and get regular cholesterol screenings. Doing so can help you prevent problems down the line.

Use this condition center to learn more about atherosclerosis, create a list of questions to ask your health care provider and get practical tips.

Atherosclerosis News & Events

Coronary Artery Calcification Likely the Best Marker of Heart Health

May 16, 2017

Checking for calcium build-up in the heart’s arteries identifies patients at increased risk for heart disease, finds study.

Quality of Life as a Key Goal for Older Adults with Heart Disease

May 10, 2017

Maintaining independence should be a key goal of treatment, argue experts.

Gum Disease and Tooth Loss Linked to Heart Risks in Older Women

May 10, 2017

Maintaining healthy gums may help reduce risk for heart disease.

New Tool Helps Predict Heart Risks in Patients with Familial Hypercholesterolemia

Apr 13, 2017

New tool to guide treatment in patients with a genetic disorder causing dangerously high cholesterol levels.

CardioSmart News

South American Tribe Has World's Healthiest Arteries, Study Finds

Mar 31, 2017
What we can learn from the Tsimane tribe, in which heart disease hardly exists.

Excess Sodium is Leading Dietary Cause of Heart-Related Deaths

Mar 24, 2017

Consuming too much salt has a strong impact on mortality risk from heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Heavy Drinking Increases Heart Risks in Men

Mar 17, 2017

Study links heavy drinking to stiffened arteries in men.

Testosterone Treatment Accelerates Artery Plaque Build-Up

Mar 01, 2017

Study highlights potential health risks of testosterone treatment in older men.

Mediterranean Diet Powers 'Good' Cholesterol's Abilities

Feb 22, 2017

The Mediterranean diet enriched with olive oil improves HDL function in adults at high risk for heart disease.

Heart Failure Rates on the Rise, Show Latest Statistics

Feb 01, 2017

While heart failure has become an increasing concern, overall death rates from heart disease declined by 25% in recent years.

Alcohol Abuse Doubles Risk for Heart Disease

Jan 21, 2017

The negative health effects of alcohol abuse are similar to that of traditional cardiovascular risk factors, finds study.

New, Sex-Specific Calculator Refines Heart Patients' Mortality Risk

Nov 17, 2016

Used with exercise stress tests, the new calculator better predicts mortality risk for both women and men.

Healthy Lifestyle Helps Offset Genetic Risk for Heart Disease

Nov 15, 2016
For patients with high genetic risk for heart disease, healthy lifestyle choices nearly cut risk in half, finds study.

Inflammation Triggers Heart Problems From Air Pollution

Nov 14, 2016

Chronic inflammation of blood vessels leads to clogged arteries and increased cardiovascular risk.

Calcium Has No Impact—Good or Bad—On Heart Health

Nov 14, 2016

Despite mixed findings, experts offer guidelines on calcium intake for adults without heart disease.

Low Testosterone is Not an Independent Risk Factor for Stroke, Finds Study

Oct 27, 2016
Researchers question whether treating testosterone level improves heart health.

Enter the "I am CardioSmart" Contest

Oct 17, 2016

Tell us how you are living well with heart disease for a chance to win a trip for two to Washington, D.C., in March 2017!

Statins Aren't the Only Option for Lowering Cholesterol

Oct 10, 2016

Other cholesterol lowering therapies—including a heart-healthy diet—can be similarly effective at lowering cholesterol and cardiovascular risk, finds study.

ACC Partners with Google to Share Reliable Heart Health Information

Sep 20, 2016
“Ask a Doctor” feature promotes patient-provider engagement.

The Importance of Promoting Heart Health in Children

Sep 17, 2016
Experts highlight early education about heart health for prevention later in life.

Sleep Deprivation Takes a Toll on Heart Health

Jul 28, 2016

Many studies show that a lack of sleep can have a negative impact on heart health, but few have determined why.

Air Pollution Accelerates Damage to the Heart's Arteries

Jul 24, 2016
Study shows how long-term exposure to air pollution promotes dangerous calcium build-up.
CardioSmart News

New Decision Tool Helps Refine Blood Thinner Use in Stent Patients

May 24, 2016

DAPT score helps weigh the risks and benefits of continued dual antiplatelet therapy after stent implantation.

CardioSmart News

Equally Aggressive Treatment Needed for Men and Women with Heart Disease

May 23, 2016
While risk factors may differ, study findings suggest plaque build-up in arteries is just as dangerous in all patients.
CardioSmart News

Stress Tests Less Useful for Assessing Heart Disease in Women than Men

May 22, 2016

Cardiac imaging proves more useful than stress tests for determining heart risk in women, finds study.