Atherosclerosis, also called hardening of the arteries or artereosclerosis, is a common medical condition that can raise your risk of heart disease.\nBy learning about your risks and understanding how to make heart-healthy choices, you can lower your chances of developing this condition.\nWhat Is Atherosclerosis?\nYou 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.\nAtherosclerosis happens when plaque builds up on your artery walls. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, fatty deposits, calcium, and other substances in your blood.\nWhen plaque builds up, it can make your arteries hard, narrow, or blocked. This can lead to serious, even life-threatening problems, including:\n\nHeart attack\nStroke\nPeripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition that happens when blood flow to your arms, legs, or pelvis becomes blocked\n\nWhat Are the Symptoms of Atherosclerosis?\nMany people with atherosclerosis don’t know they have it. When symptoms do happen, they can include:\n\nChest pain\nHeart attack, which can be life-threatening\nStroke symptoms like dizziness or weakness\nLeg, arm, or pelvic pain\n\nWho Is at Risk for Atherosclerosis?\nAtherosclerosis can happen slowly over time. As you get older, your risks get higher.\nSome conditions and habits that can speed up plaque build-up include:\n\nHigh cholesterol\nHigh blood pressure\nSmoking\nDiabetes\nBeing overweight or obese\nNot getting regular exercise\nHaving an unhealthy diet\n\nPreventing Atherosclerosis and Staying Healthy\nYou can lower your risks by making heart-healthy choices, including:\n\nEating a heart-healthy diet\nStaying at a healthy weight\nGetting regular exercise\nQuitting smoking\n\nTalk 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.