Atherosclerosis (commonly known as hardening of the arteries) is an accumulation of plaque deposits in the lining of the arteries — the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to your heart and other parts of your body.
Atherosclerosis affects nearly 4.6 million Americans.
Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. As plaque builds up, it causes the arteries to narrow and harden, slowing — and even stopping — blood flow.
This serious condition can lead to:
The UPMC Heart and Vascular Program offers standard and minimally invasive approaches to treat:
Atherosclerosis has no visible symptoms, and it often remains undetected until the arteries leading to a vital organ are blocked.
When a blockage occurs, symptoms vary — depending on the location of affected arteries — and may include:
Most people are diagnosed after they develop symptoms.
People can be screened and treated for risk factors.
Common risk factors for atherosclerosis include:
If you have symptoms, your doctor will ask you questions during your physical exam to help determine what arteries might be affected.
Following your exam, your doctor may order additional tests and procedures to help confirm a diagnosis of atherosclerosis, such as:
Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to expect your test results and will call you when they're available.
Medications, lifestyle changes, and surgery may be helpful in treating atherosclerosis.
Working together, UPMC's multidisciplinary team of cardiologists, radiologists, surgeons, rehabilitation specialists, physical therapists, and nutritionists provides a full range of advanced atherosclerosis treatments focusing on:
Learn more about heart and vascular treatments at UPMC.
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