Symptoms and Signs of Hardening of the Arteries (Atherosclerosis)

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Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Hardening of the Arteries (Atherosclerosis)

Atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries” is a long-term process that leads to narrowing of the blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart due to thickening and hardening of the artery walls. This narrowing, in turn, causes a reduction in blood flow to the affected areas of the body. Factors that increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis include high levels of "bad" cholesterol, elevated blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, smoking, and a family history of the condition. Atherosclerosis is responsible for coronary artery disease (angine and heart attacks) and strokes.  

Symptoms of atherosclerosis depend on the particular artery that is affected. In coronary artery disease, associated symptoms can include chest pain either at rest or during exercise. A heart attack can be associated with a feeling of crushing or pressure in the chest. Symptoms associated with stroke include sudden numbness, weakness, confusion, trouble walking, or vision disturbances.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.