Atherosclerosis is a condition in which fatty material collects along the walls of arteries. This material thickens and hardens and may eventually block the arteries. Atherosclerosis is a type of arteriosclerosis. The two terms are often used interchangeably.

Atherosclerosis is a common disorder of the arteries. Eventually, plaque built up in the arteries can narrow them. If the coronary arteries narrow, blood flow to the heart can slow or stop, causing chest pain, shortness of breath, heart attack and other symptoms.

Pieces of plaque can break off and move through the bloodstream. This is a common cause of heart attack and stroke. Blood clots can also form around a tear or fissure in the plaque. Clots block blood flow. If the clot moves into an artery in the heart, lungs or brain, it can cause a stroke, heart attack or pulmonary embolism.

Risk factors for atherosclerosis include diabetes, heavy alcohol use, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a high-fat diet, increasing age, obesity, personal or family history of heart disease, and smoking.

Atherosclerosis can affect many parts of the body, including the heart, lungs, brain, intestines, kidneys and limbs.


Symptoms usually do not occur until blood flow becomes restricted or blocked, so it's important to get vascular screenings if a person has risk factors. Symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm

  • Coronary artery disease

  • Kidney disease

  • Mesenteric artery ischemia

  • Peripheral artery disease

  • Renal artery stenosis

  • Hypertension

  • Stroke

  • Thoracic aortic aneurysm


A number of surgeries are commonly performed to help reduce the complications of atherosclerosis. Some of these are:

  • Angioplasty and stent

  • Angioplasty and stent placement - peripheral arteries

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm repair - open

  • Coronary artery bypass surgery

  • Carotid artery surgery

  • Minimally invasive heart surgery

Texas Health is committed to providing quality care to heart and vascular patients throughout North Texas and beyond. While various technologies and services are discussed here, not all of our hosptial offer every treatment and diagnostic technology highlighted. Call 1-877-THR-WELL to learn more about heart and vascular services at a Texas Health hospital near you.

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