Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a pattern of the disease arteriosclerosis[8] in which the wall of the artery develops abnormalities, called lesions. These lesions may lead to narrowing due to the buildup of atheromatous plaque.[9] At onset there are usually no symptoms, but if they develop, symptoms generally begin around middle age.[1] When severe, it can result in coronary artery disease, stroke, peripheral artery disease, or kidney problems, depending on which arteries are affected.[1]

Atherosclerosis
Other namesArteriosclerotic vascular disease (ASVD)
The progression of atherosclerosis (narrowing exaggerated)
SpecialtyCardiology, angiology
SymptomsNone[1]
ComplicationsCoronary artery disease, stroke, peripheral artery disease, kidney problems[1]
Usual onsetYouth (worsens with age)[2]
CausesUnknown[1]
Risk factorsHigh blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, obesity, family history, unhealthy diet (notably trans fat), chronic Vitamin C deficiency[3][4]
PreventionHealthy diet, exercise, not smoking, maintaining a normal weight[5]
MedicationStatins, blood pressure medication, aspirin[6]
Frequency≈100% (>65 years old)[7]

The exact cause is not known and is proposed to be multifactorial.[1] Risk factors include abnormal cholesterol levels, elevated levels of inflammatory markers,[10] high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, obesity, family history, genetic, and an unhealthy diet.[4] Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood.[9] The narrowing of arteries limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to parts of the body.[9] Diagnosis is based upon a physical exam, electrocardiogram, and exercise stress test, among others.[11]

Prevention is generally by eating a healthy diet, exercising, not smoking, and maintaining a normal weight.[5] Treatment of established disease may include medications to lower cholesterol such as statins, blood pressure medication, or medications that decrease clotting, such as aspirin.[6] A number of procedures may also be carried out such as percutaneous coronary intervention, coronary artery bypass graft, or carotid endarterectomy.[6]

Atherosclerosis generally starts when a person is young and worsens with age.[2] Almost all people are affected to some degree by the age of 65.[7] It is the number one cause of death and disability in the developed world.[12] Though it was first described in 1575,[13] there is evidence that the condition occurred in people more than 5,000 years ago.[13]


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