How Does Atherosclerosis Start And Progress? - Manipal Hospitals
Everything You Need to Know About Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is the buildup of plaque (a combination of cholesterol, fat, calcium, and blood elements) on and inside the walls of your arteries. ()
Your arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart to the rest of your body. When they narrow and stiffen due to plaque buildup, blood flow to various organs and tissues can be restricted, potentially causing symptoms and even tissue damage. (2)
The terms “atherosclerosis” and “arteriosclerosis” are often used interchangeably, but atherosclerosis is actually a form of arteriosclerosis (commonly known as hardening of the arteries) specifically caused by plaque buildup. (3)
Artherosclerosis can affect any arteries in the body. When the arteries that lead to your heart are affected, the condition is known as coronary artery disease (CAD).
According to the American Heart Association, more than 360,000 people in the United States die annually as a result of CAD, making it the most deadly form of heart disease. CAD accounts for 1 in 7 deaths in the country. (4)
Although atherosclerosis and other forms of cardiovascular disease are more common in older adults, it’s possible for the condition to progress rapidly as early as in your thirties. In fact, atherosclerosis may even begin during childhood, the American Heart Association notes. (1)
More About Coronary Artery Disease
What Causes Atherosclerosis?
The exact causes of atherosclerosis aren’t known.
There’s evidence that it may be caused by damage to the inner lining of your arteries (known as the endothelium), where plaque typically accumulates.
This damage may be caused by the following factors:
An area of plaque accumulation can break open, exposing its contents to the bloodstream. When this happens, blood platelets may clump together at the site of the rupture and form a clot, potentially blocking the flow of blood to an area of your body.
Video: Heart attack, clogged arteries and atherosclerosis
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