Think of a garden hose. It’s fairly flexible and, if it’s clear of dirt, the water passes through it easily. But what happens if gunk starts to stick to the inside of the hose? Water wouldn’t be able to flow through as well.
This is similar to what happens when our arteries, which carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart and other parts of the body, become hardened or narrowed. This hardening and narrowing of the arteries – called atherosclerosis – makes it tough for blood to flow through them freely.
Atherosclerosis is fairly common, especially as we age. It happens when fats and cholesterol in the blood form plaque. This plaque can build up along the inner lining of the artery walls. If it begins to block the arteries (called Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease, or ASCVD), it can slow and limit the flow of blood to your organs. When this happens, it can lead to serious problems, including heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery 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 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 team and get practical tips.