Atherosclerosis

Alternative Names

Arteriosclerosis; Hardening of the arteries; Plaque buildup – arteries

Definition of Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which fatty material collects along the walls of arteries. This fatty material thickens, hardens (forms calcium deposits), and may eventually block the arteries.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Atherosclerosis is a common disorder that specifically affects the medium and large arteries. It occurs when fat, cholesterol, and other substances build up in the walls of arteries and form hard structures called plaques.

Symptoms

Symptoms usually do not occur until blood flow becomes restricted or blocked.

Signs and tests

A health care provider will perform a physical exam and listen to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope. Atherosclerosis can create a whooshing or blowing sound (“bruit”) over an artery.

Treatment

To help prevent atherosclerosis or its complications (such as heart disease and stroke), make the following lifestyle changes:

Expectations (prognosis)

Everyone starts to develop some amount of atherosclerosis as they grow older. In some people, the condition can cause complications such as a heart attack or stroke.

Review

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 5/26/2010

Carotid stenosis, X-ray of the left artery
Carotid stenosis, X-ray of the right artery
Enlarged view of atherosclerosis
Prevention of heart disease
Developmental process of atherosclerosis
Angina
Atherosclerosis
Cholesterol producers
Coronary artery balloon angioplasty - series

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

Article written by

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability.