Atherosclerosis is a serious condition where arteries become clogged up by fatty substances, called plaques or atheroma.

The arteries harden and narrow because of the built up plaques, thus restricting the blood flow to the organs. The reduced blood leads to damage of the organs and their improper functioning.

In case of a plaque rupture, a blood clot is formed which flows in the blood stream and can block any artery supplying blood to the heart, the brain, or the extremities.



Mild atherosclerosis doesn’t have symptoms. The symptoms of moderate and severe atherosclerosis depend on the affected arteries:

  • chest pain (atherosclerosis in heart arteries)
  • transient ischemic attack or stroke (arteries going to the brain)
  • pain during walking (narrowed arteries in the legs)
  • high blood pressure or kidney failure (arteries leading to the kidneys)
  • erectile dysfunction (in men, if atherosclerosis is in the arteries leading to the genitals) or difficulty having sex (for women).



The exact cause of atherosclerosis is unclear. It is supposed that it starts with damage of the inner layer of an artery. The damage can be caused by:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol, tryglicerides
  • diabetes
  • smoking
  • other diseases or inflammation


Risk Factors

The risk factors of developing atherosclerosis are:

  • high-fat diet
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • smoking
  • no physical activity



Complications of atherosclerosis depend on the clogged arteries:

  • coronary artery disease, like chest pain, heart attack or heart failure
  • carotid artery disease, which can cause transient ischemic attack or stroke
  • peripheral artery disease, which means lower circulation in the legs and arms; this increases risk of burns, frostbite and insensitivity to cold and heat, or in the worst case, gangrene
  • aneurysm, a bulge on an artery, which can burst if it is large aneurysm in question; a blood clot from the aneurysm may dislodge and block an artery




The causes of atherosclerosis can also help to prevent it. These are:

  • healthy diet
  • physical exercises
  • quit smoking