Atherosclerosis is the narrowing of arteries due to plaque buildup on the artery walls. These arteries carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. They’re lined with a thin layer of cells that keeps them smooth and allows blood to flow easily. This is called the endothelium. Furthermore, atherosclerosis starts when the endothelium becomes damaged, allowing the harmful type of cholesterol to build up in the artery wall.
The body sends a type of white blood cell to clean up this cholesterol; however, sometimes, the cells get stuck at the affected site. Over the course of time, plaque can start to build up, made of cholesterol, macrophages, calcium, and other substances from the blood. Sometimes, the plaque grows to a certain size and stops growing, causing the individual no probelms. However, there are times that the plaque clogs up the artery, disrupting the flow of blood around the body. This makes blood clots more likely, which can result in life-threatening conditions.
In some cases, the plaque eventually, breaks open. If this happens, platelets gather in the affected area and can stick together, forming blood clots. This can block the entry, leading to life-threatening conditions such as stroke and heart attack.
Lastly, the condition can affect the artery tree, but mainly affects the larger, high-pressure arteries.