Levin, Richard I. Laboratory for Cardiovascular Research, and Training Program in Cardiology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York.
Last reviewed:January 2019
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The deposition of lipid with proliferation of fibrous connective tissue cells in the inner walls of the arteries. Atherosclerosis (Fig. 1) is the most common form of arteriosclerosis, which comprises a group of degenerative diseases of arteries characterized by thickening and hardening of their walls. Often, the two terms—atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis—are used interchangeably. Atherosclerosis is a very serious condition, being the underlying cause of about half of all deaths in industrialized nations. It is an inflammatory process that may cause a number of diseases. The diseases stem from the loss of normal function of the blood vessels caused by the presence of the atheromatous mass or plaque (consisting of cholesterol, fatty substances, cellular waste products, and fibrin) that progressively encroaches on the lumen of the artery. The ensuing loss of function results in the inability to provide an adequate flow of blood to a particular downstream organ; this circumstance is called ischemia. The discomfort associated with intermittent and recurrent ischemia of the heart is called angina pectoris, or simply angina. In addition, thrombosis (the process of forming a thrombus, or blood clot) usually occurs in a diseased blood vessel as a result of atherosclerosis. Some medical researchers believe that atherosclerosis may be preventable in many cases and can be eradicated by a combination of diet, exercise, and medications. See also: Arteriosclerosis; Blood; Blood vessels; Cholesterol; Circulation; Circulation disorders; Heart (vertebrate); Heart disorders; Inflammation; Lipid; Thrombosis
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