Atherosclerosis, sometimes called "hardening of the arteries," occurs when fat (cholesterol) and calcium build up in the wall of the arteries, forming a substance called plaque. Over time, the fat and calcium buildup may narrow the artery and reduce blood flow through it.
When atherosclerosis affects the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart, it can restrict blood flow to the heart muscle. This is called coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease can lead to a heart attack.
When atherosclerosis affects the arteries that supply blood to the brain, it may cause a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke.
Atherosclerosis can affect arteries in other parts of the body, such as the pelvis and legs, causing poor circulation and slower healing of skin injuries.
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.