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FAQ (Health)

 Dr. George Jacob
Heart Infocenter




Arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis involve the buildup of deposits on the insides of the artery walls, which causes thickening and hardening of the arteries.

In arteriosclerosis, the deposits are composed largely of calcium.
In atherosclerosis, the deposits consist of fatty substances, and artery walls lose elasticity and harden.

Both arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis affect circulation. If not taken care of they can ultimately lead to high blood pressure and to angina (chest pain), heart attack, stroke, and/or sudden cardiac death.

The term "arteriosclerosis" means thickening and hardening of artery walls. 
As a result of the deposit of calcium and plaque on the walls of the artery:

  • Arteries thicken.

  • Arteries lose their elasticity.

  • The walls of the artery harden and become brittle.

  • These deposits narrow the artery and interfere with the normal flow of blood through the vessel.

  • This makes the heart work harder, which, in turn, can cause a heart attack or lead to blood clots in the artery, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

  • Arteriosclerosis can also cause blood vessels to widen or rupture in an aneurysm. Most affected are vital organs such as the heart and brain, and the legs, yet all arteries are vulnerable.

How fat and plaque deposits on arteries can lead to arteriosclerosis and Hear Attack

No Obstruction Partial Obstruction
Cross Section of a healthy artery. The inside of the artery is free and provides unobstructed flow of blood. Arteries are gradually getting clogged by fatty deposits on the vessel wall. Note that the opening for the flow of blood is now reduced. But there is still space for blood to flow through.
Major Obstruction Full Obstruction
Advanced hardening of the artery. Fatty deposits now clog most of the artery opening. But small amount of blood (shown in red) still flow through. Blood clot (shown in blue) now blocks the small opening, cutting off the flow of blood completely. This leads to heart attack.

Plaque buildup on artery walls occurs naturally as we age, but the process is accelerated by smoking, alcohol consumption, a high-fat diet, caffeine, lack of exercise and stress. Heredity and some diseases such as diabetes, also increases the risk for arteriosclerosis.

Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle can help you avoid this dangerous disorder.

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