What is Arteriosclerosis?
Arteriosclerosis is a disease of the blood vessels supplying the body with oxygen-rich blood, the arteries. In the course of this artery disease, the walls of the vessels become thicker and harder and are losing elasticity. Since the arteries are growing narrower concurrently, the blood flow is hindered and the blood supply to the affected area is reduced.
The causes of arteriosclerosis are not yet precisely known. It is assumed, however, that an injury or some other damage of the vessel`s wall marks the beginning of the disease. In response to the damage, the wall is hardening and thickening at the lesioned site. Additionally, blood fats tend to accumulate at the lesioned region building up fatty deposits together with calcium and proteins. These fatty deposits are called plaques. As the plaques grow larger over time, they narrow the artery and hinder or may even block the blood flow completely.
If arteriosclerosis affects the arteries supplying the heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood (the coronaries) it is called coronary artery disease and may result in a life-threatening heart attack. Peripheral arterial disease, however, is a result of arteriosclerosis in arteries outside of the heart, very often the lower legs. Arteriosclerosis in the arteries of the brain may lead to a stroke.