Atherosclerosis is the buildup of fatty plaque inside the arteries. Atherosclerosis leads to problems with heart function because the arteries become narrowed due to the buildup and blood flow is restricted. Another danger of atherosclerosis is that the buildups can rupture, creating blood clots that can block blood flow, cause a heart attack, stroke or other tissue damage.
Atherosclerosis usually develops over many, many years. Current understanding of the disease is that it begins when there is damage done to the lining of the artery.
Atherosclerosis probably exists to some extent in most adolescents and adults. Problems arise when it progresses to the point where heart function is affected or blood flow to an organ or tissue is reduced.
The progression of atherosclerosis is affected by several factors that can be modified through lifestyle changes or other means. Reducing blood pressure, blood cholesterol and triglycerides are important and can be achieved to some extent with proper diet and exercise.
Maintaining a healthy weight helps in many ways, including lowering your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. Exercise is also important to maintaining weight and improving blood lipid profiles.
Unfortunately, atherosclerosis is often undiagnosed until an incident occurs such as a heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Several treatments exist for reducing the blockages due to atherosclerosis. These include medications such as statin drugs and procedures such as angioplasty and bypass surgery.