Atherosclerosis, sometimes called "hardening of the arteries,"
occurs when fat (cholesterol) and calcium build up in the wall of the
arteries, forming a substance called plaque. Over time, the fat and calcium
buildup may narrow the artery and reduce blood flow through it.
When atherosclerosis affects the coronary arteries that
supply blood to the heart, it can restrict blood flow to the heart muscle. This is called
coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease can lead to a heart attack.
atherosclerosis affects the arteries that supply blood to the brain, it may
cause a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke.
can affect arteries in other parts of the body, such as the pelvis and legs,
causing poor circulation, slower healing of skin injuries, and erection
A major part of treating atherosclerosis and coronary artery
disease involves lifestyle changes (such as quitting smoking) and medicines
to help reduce high cholesterol, control high blood pressure, and manage other
things that increase a person's risk of heart attack, stroke, and other
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology