• Loading results...
  • text 1
  • text 2
Please enter a valid search term

Understanding Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis (pronounced a·thr·ow·sklr·ow·suhs) is a thickening or hardening of the arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood to different parts of the body. It happens when fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances build up along the inside of the artery walls.

Over time, atherosclerosis can block or disrupt blood flow through the affected arteries. This can lead to serious problems, including heart attack and stroke. 

This picture shows two blood vessels. The blood vessel on the right side is healthy. In the blood vessel on the left side, plaque – made up of cholesterol and fats – builds up along the inner lining of the wall.

Why Does It Happen?

While we don’t have all the answers, when the inner lining of the blood vessels are injured, swelling (inflammation) can occur. Usually a thin layer of cells coat the inside of the arteries to keep the lining smooth (endothelium) so that blood can flow easily throughout the body.

But researchers believe that repeated damage to the lining of the blood vessels over time can cause narrowing of the walls of the blood vessels. This may eventually clog arteries.

Damage the lining of blood vessels may happen from:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High levels of fats and cholesterol in the blood
  • Diabetes 
  • Last Edited 09/07/2022