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Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to your heart and other parts of your body.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

About Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to your heart and other parts of your body.

Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Over time, plaque hardens and narrows your arteries. This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of your body.

Atherosclerosis can lead to serious problems, including heart attack, stroke, or even death.

Atherosclerosis-Related Diseases

Atherosclerosis can affect any artery in the body, including arteries in the heart, brain, arms, legs, pelvis, and kidneys. As a result, different diseases may develop based on which arteries are affected.

Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease, occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries.... Read more about Atherosclerosis
NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Testosterone and oestrogen steroid sex hormones for lower limb atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis of the arteries of the legs can become symptomatic as people age. People affected may experience discomfort and cramping pain in the legs that is triggered by exercise and relieved with rest, termed intermittent claudication. Some people with claudication go on to require reconstructive surgery and even amputation of a leg. Risk factors for peripheral arterial disease include cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and blood flow problems. The steroid sex hormones oestrogens and testosterone affect a number of these risk factors, particularly cholesterol and blood clotting, and may be helpful in peripheral vascular disease.

[Meta-analysis on influence of different doses of atorvastatin on carotid atherosclerosis in Chinese]

Bibliographic details: Liu SY, Zhang XJ, Cai H, Yang LY, Ding XN, Chang Y.  [Meta-analysis on influence of different doses of atorvastatin on carotid atherosclerosis in Chinese]. Journal of Jilin University (Medicine Edition) 2013; 39(2): 313-317 Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.7694/jldxyxb20130227

Angioplasty with stenting for intracranial atherosclerosis: a systematic review

OBJECTIVE: Intracranial artery stenosis can be fatal, requiring fast, safe and effective intervention. The introduction of the Wingspan™ stent system with Gateway™ percutaneous transluminal angioplasty balloon catheter has made intracranial intervention possible in a clinical trial setting. This systematic review planned to identify and review all randomized controlled trials comparing angioplasty and stenting of intracranial arteries with standard medical care.

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Summaries for consumers

Testosterone and oestrogen steroid sex hormones for lower limb atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis of the arteries of the legs can become symptomatic as people age. People affected may experience discomfort and cramping pain in the legs that is triggered by exercise and relieved with rest, termed intermittent claudication. Some people with claudication go on to require reconstructive surgery and even amputation of a leg. Risk factors for peripheral arterial disease include cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and blood flow problems. The steroid sex hormones oestrogens and testosterone affect a number of these risk factors, particularly cholesterol and blood clotting, and may be helpful in peripheral vascular disease.

Chelation therapy for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease

Not enough evidence about the effects of chelation therapy to reduce blockages in the blood vessels of people with atherosclerotic cardiovascular (heart and circulation) disease. Atherosclerosis is caused by fatty deposits sticking to the inside of people's arteries and restricting blood flow. People with blocked arteries are more likely to have strokes and heart attacks, and can often only walk short distances before their legs begin to ache. Chelation therapy involves infusions into the bloodstream of substances believed to remove metals from the blood. This is promoted to people with atherosclerotic heart and circulation disease as a way of breaking down the blockages in their blood vessels. However, the review found there is not enough evidence from trials about the effects of this treatment.

Cryoplasty for peripheral vascular disease

The benefit of cryoplasty over conventional balloon angioplasty has yet to be definitely established as there are few randomised controlled trials evaluating this method. The technical success rates and rates of unobstructed arteries (primary patency) compared with conventional angioplasty seen in seven trials (478 patients) were inconsistent. Long‐term outcomes, in particular, are as yet to be assessed fully. Currently there are insufficient data to support the routine use of cryoplasty over conventional balloon angioplasty in the treatment of peripheral arterial disease.

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Terms to know

Arteries
A blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to tissues and organs in the body.
Blood Vessels
Tubes that carry blood to and from all parts of the body. The three main types of blood vessels are arteries, capillaries, and veins.
Heart
The hollow, muscular organ that maintains the circulation of the blood.
Oxygenated Blood
Oxygen-rich blood.
Plaque
In medicine, a small, abnormal patch of tissue on a body part or an organ. Plaques may also be a build-up of substances from a fluid, such as cholesterol in the blood vessels.

More about Atherosclerosis

Photo of an adult

Also called: Atheromatosis

See Also: Myocardial Infarction, Stroke, Coronary Heart Disease, Carotid Artery Disease, Peripheral Artery Disease

Other terms to know: See all 5
Arteries, Blood Vessels, Heart

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