Atherosclerosis occurs when your arteries become clogged with fatty deposits (known as plaque), causing them to lose their elasticity and narrow. It’s the condition that causes most heart attacks and strokes.

CausesThe causes of atherosclerosis are still not completely understood. Atherosclerosis is thought to begin when the inner lining of an artery becomes damaged. The blood vessel wall reacts by depositing fatty substances, like cholesterol and calcium on the inner lining of the artery. This plaque formation gradually narrows the blood vessels, making it harder for blood to flow.

SymptomsMost people with atherosclerosis don’t know they have it until they get symptoms like angina or have a heart attack or stroke, because it causes no symptoms until it is far enough advanced to block a large part of a crucial blood vessel.

The symptoms depend on where the blockage occurs. If the blockage occurs in the coronary artery, it will cause angina (chest pain) or progress to a heart attack. If the blockage develops in the brain, it can cause a stroke.

Diagnosis Atherosclerosis can be diagnosed using the following:

  • Angiography
  • Blood tests
  • Doppler ultrasound
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG)
  • Physical exam

TreatmentYour doctor may treat your atherosclerosis with a combination of lifestyle changes, medications (to reduce your risk of a blood clot), surgery or other procedures. You can take action to lower your risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke through controlling your blood pressure, diabetes and blood cholesterol.

Leading a healthy lifestyle also helps reduce your risk

  • Quit smoking
  • Be physically active
  • Eat a healthy diet low in saturated and trans fat
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce alcohol consumption
  • Reduce stress