Health encyclopaedia - Alphabetical Topic List
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Atherosclerosis is a disease of the inner wall of the artery, causing narrowing and impaired blood flow. It involves the build up of deposits of fatty substances, decaying muscle cells, cholesterol, calcium and other substances in the inner lining of an artery. This build up is called plaque (atheromas). Plaque can grow and can considerably narrow the artery, so the artery becomes constricted and the elasticity is reduced. Therefore the amount of blood able to travel through it is reduced. The number and thickness of plaques increases with age, which builds up over many years.
The plaque may also encourage blood clots to form; these can block blood flow and may also travel to other parts of the body and block smaller vessels. Atherosclerosis can affect the arteries of the heart, brain, kidneys, other vital organs, and the arms and legs.