What Is Atherosclerosis, or Hardening of the Arteries?

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Atherosclerosis, also called hardening of the arteries or artereosclerosis, is a common medical condition that can raise your risk of heart disease.

By learning about your risks and understanding how to make heart-healthy choices, you can lower your chances of developing this condition.

What Is Atherosclerosis?

You might not think about them very often, but your arteries do an important job. When they are smooth, flexible, and not clogged, blood can flow through them easily, bringing oxygen and nutrients to your organs and tissues. This keeps your body on track and working the right way.

Atherosclerosis happens when plaque builds up on your artery walls. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, fatty deposits, calcium, and other substances in your blood.

When plaque builds up, it can make your arteries hard, narrow, or blocked. This can lead to serious, even life-threatening problems, including:

What Are the Symptoms of Atherosclerosis?

Many people with atherosclerosis don’t know they have it. When symptoms do happen, they can include:

Who Is at Risk for Atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis can happen slowly over time. As you get older, your risks get higher.

Some conditions and habits that can speed up plaque build-up include:

Preventing Atherosclerosis and Staying Healthy

You can lower your risks by making heart-healthy choices, including:

Talk to your doctor about what is right for you, and how you can stay on track with heart-healthy habits. Learn more by visiting UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute online. Learn more about your risk factors by attending a free community heart screening.


Heart and Vascular Institute

As a recognized leader in cardiovascular care — with a rich history in clinical research and innovation — the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute offers a full spectrum of personalized cardiovascular services. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the United States, UPMC has made significant contributions to the advancement of cardiovascular medicine. Read More