Common disease of the arteries in which patches (plaques) consisting mostly of cholesterol and other lipids form on the inner arterial wall. The effect of these deposits is that the vessels become rigid and narrowed, leading to a reduced flow of blood.
Narrowing of arteries in different parts of the body leads to different problems. If arteries in the heart (coronary arteries) become narrowed it can lead to a heart attack. If arteries leading to the brain become narrowed, the result can be a stroke. Atherosclerosis in the legs can lead to problems with ulcers in the feet and toes.
Atherosclerosis is associated with high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and some inherited metabolic diseases. In some cases, segments of blocked arteries may be surgically bypassed (as in coronary bypass surgery). Preventive measures include cessation of smoking, a low-fat diet, exercise, and avoidance of stress.