Atherosclerosis is a disease that occurs when the arteries become narrowed and hardened due to a buildup of fatty deposits called plaque. It is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke, two of the most common causes of death worldwide.
The development of atherosclerosis is a complex process that can take many years. It begins with damage to the inner lining of the artery, which can be caused by factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, or high levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Once the inner lining of the artery is damaged, immune cells called macrophages are attracted to the site and begin to accumulate. These cells attempt to clear the damaged tissue, but they can also become overwhelmed by the buildup of cholesterol and other lipids, leading to the formation of foam cells.
Over time, the accumulation of foam cells and other inflammatory cells can lead to the formation of a fatty deposit, or plaque, in the artery. As the plaque grows, it can begin to obstruct blood flow and cause a variety of symptoms, including chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
If the plaque ruptures, it can trigger the formation of a blood clot, which can completely block the artery and cause a heart attack or stroke.
Next, risk factors for Atherosclerosis.