DefinitionAtherosclerosis is hardening of a blood vessel from a buildup of plaque. Plaque is made of fatty deposits, cholesterol, and calcium. Plaque buildup causes the artery to narrow and harden.Plaque buildup can slow and even stop blood flow. This means the tissue supplied by the artery is cut off from its blood supply. This often leads to pain or decreased function. This condition can cause a number of serious health problems. Depending on the location of the blockage, it can cause:
- Coronary heart disease —Loss of blood to areas of the heart
- Stroke —Loss of blood to areas of the brain
- Peripheral vascular disease —Loss of blood to the extremities
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CausesAtherosclerosis is caused by plaque. Plaque is created by high levels of cholesterol and fat in the blood. Scar tissue and calcium from vessel injury can also add to the plaque buildup.The process leading to this may begin in childhood. It takes decades before it causes serious health problems.
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