What is it?

Atherosclerosis is a narrowing of the arteries caused by a buildup of plaque. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients from your heart to the rest of your body.
As you get older, fats, cholesterol, and calcium can collect in your arteries and form plaque. The buildup of plaque makes it difficult for blood to flow through your arteries, which can result in a shortage of blood and oxygen in various tissues of your body. This buildup may occur in any artery in your body, including your Aorta, coronary arteries that supply your heart, arteries of the brain, legs, kidneys, etc.
Pieces of the plaque can break open, which causes a blood clot to form and block blood flow completely. A blood clot or a piece of plaque can also travel to other distant parts of your body. This may lead, for example, to a stroke, a heart attack, or limb ischemia – depending on the organ affected.
The plaque can also weaken the wall of the artery involved, including the Aorta, and The wall might stretch or tear.
Factors that increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis are: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, being overweight, smoking, lack of exercise, family history and advanced age.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Chronic Total Occlusion of Artery of the Extremities
- Renal Artery Atherosclerosis
- Atherosclerosis of kidney artery
- Atherosclerotic renal artery stenosis
- Aortic Atherosclerosis
- Atherosclerosis of Bypass Graft of Extremities
- Atherosclerosis of Native Arteries of Extremities

Signs & symptoms

Atherosclerosis itself does not cause any symptoms until a blockage or a serious narrowing that impairs oxygen supply occurs. When this happens, symptoms depend on the organ affected.
For example, narrowing of the coronary arteries that supply your heart (known as Ischemic Heart Disease or Coronary Artery Disease) may cause chest pain, while narrowing of the arteries of your legs may cause intermittent claudication – pain and cramping when walking or exercising.


Your doctor will perform a physical exam if you have symptoms related to atherosclerosis and impaired blood flow. They may check for weakened pulses, certain murmurs in your arteries, signs of slow wound healing, and more. Some cases may need a referral to a specialist.
Other specific tests depends on the affected organ. These may include:

* blood tests
* Doppler ultrasound that shows blood flow through your vessels
* ABI - looks for a blockage in your arms or legs by comparing the blood pressure in each limb
* MRA of CTA - imaging of your arteries
* ECG - measures the electrical activity in your heart
* stress test
* angiogram – a type of X-ray that is taken after injecting a special dye, thus imaging your vessels.


Treatment includes:
* lifestyle modifications - regular exercise program, balanced diet, losing weight, smoking cessation and more.
* Medications to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and medications for diabetes if you have diabetes. These are aimed to control risk factors and prevent progression of your atherosclerosis.
* Additional treatment, including other medications or surgical procedures, will be considered depending on the organ affected and the severity of your condition.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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