Hardening of the Arteries Overview
Hardening of the arteries (atherrosclerosis) is a disorder in which arteries (blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood from the heart to other parts of the body) become narrowed because fat (cholesterol deposits called atherosclerosis ) is first deposited on the inside walls of the arteries, then becomes hardened by fibrous tissue and calcification (arteriosclerosis). As this plaque grows, it narrows the lumen of the artery (the space in the artery tubes), thereby reducing both the oxygen and blood supply to the affected organ (like the heart, eyes, kidney, legs, gut, or the brain). The plaque may eventually severely block the artery, causing death of the tissue supplied by the artery, for example, heart attack or stroke .
When the arteries of the heart (coronary arteries) are affected by arteriosclerosis, the person can develop angina. heart attack, congestive heart failure. or abnormal cardiac rhythms (because of coronary artery disease ). When the arteries of the brain (cerebral arteries) are affected by arteriosclerosis, the person can develop a threatened stroke. called transient ischemic attack. or actual death of brain tissue, called stroke .
Hardening of the arteries is a progressive condition that may begin in childhood. Fatty streaks can develop in the aorta (the largest blood vessel supplying blood to both the upper and lower part of the body) shortly after birth. In those people with familial history of high cholesterol. the condition may worsen rapidly in the early 20s and progressively become more severe in the 40s and 50s.
In the United States, approximately 720,000 heart attacks occur annually. Nearly 380,000 people die annually from coronary heart disease .
The incidence of coronary heart disease in the Far East is significantly lower than in the West. Possible genetic reasons for this difference are not clearly defined. However, the role of the Western diet. lack of exercise. obesity. and other environmental factors may be responsible contributory factors for the differences.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/12/2015
Shabir Bhimji, MD
Shehnaz Shaikh, MD
Alan D Forker, MD
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
A Picture Guide to Coronary Artery Disease
Must Read Articles Related to Hardening of the Arteries
Angina pectoris is a term to describe . >
An aortic aneurysm is a medical emergency. Abnormal enlargement or bulging of the learn more >>
Chest Pain Overview Chest pain has a variety of noncardiac and cardiac causes, some of which can be very serious. Signs and symptoms of chest pain may include burning, squeezing, o. learn more >>
Patient Comments & Reviews
The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Atherosclerosis (Hardening of the Arteries):
Hardening of the Arteries — Treatment
What was the treatment for your hardening of the arteries?
Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape
Vascular Dementia A diagnosis of dementia does not always mean an unavoidable decline. by Daniel Pendick Copyright 2000 Memory Loss and the Brain One of the most feared consequences of aging is…
Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center Renal artery stenosis is a narrowing of arteries that carry blood to one or both of the kidneys. Most often seen in older people with…
Hardening of arteries in neck What are the possible causes of a dialated carotid artery . hi,welcome to healthcare magic forum,there are many causes for dilated carotid artery like-carotid body…
Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center In this article What Is High Blood Pressure? continued. People with blood pressure readings of 140/90 or higher, taken on at least two occasions,…
Hardening, Hardness of Heart Hardening, Hardness of Heart In the Scriptures various aspects of human anatomy are used to define the whole person, but the most frequently used is heart. The…
Hepatitis C Facts: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment You probably heard of hepatitis A and B, but did you know that hepatitis C also exists? Similar to the other two diseases, hepatitis…