Atherosclerosis is characterized by the formation of plaques inside the walls of arteries. This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the vital organs. The constituents of plaque are fat, cholesterol, calcium, and some other substances present in blood. When such atherosclerotic plaques form within the coronary arteries, the condition is referred to as Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). The coronary arteries are very important because they are responsible for the blood supply to the heart.
The passages of the coronary arteries narrow down due the formation of plaques. This causes a decrease in the blood circulation to the heart muscles. The risk of blood clot formation in the arteries also increases manifolds. Due to the reduced blood supply to the heart, a person can experience severe chest pain and also suffer from a heart attack. Scientists are yet trying to find out the exact cause of atherosclerosis. According to experts, this is a complex process that starts off at a very early age and then gradually progresses as you grow old.
According to a common theory, atherosclerosis may start when certain factors damage the inner layers of the arteries. These factors include tobacco smoking, increased levels of cholesterol in the blood, high blood pressure, and excess amounts of glucose in the blood due to insulin resistance or diabetes mellitus. As a part of the natural defense mechanism, when damage occurs, the body starts a healing process. This process of healing may give rise to plaque formation, which, in turn, may end up damaging the arteries in the long run.
Sometimes, a part of the plaque may break off, causing a blood clot to form at the site. A blood clot worsens the condition even more and if the formed blood clot is transported to any other vital organs like the brain or kidney, the consequences can be grave. Although the advancement of medicine and technology has decreased the number of deaths as a result of atherosclerosis, the fact still remains that prevention is always better than a cure. Lifestyle modifications and dietary changes play a very important role in both the prevention as well as treatment of the condition.