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What Causes Atherosclerosis aka Hardening of the Arteries?

Learn what causes atherosclerosis, aka hardening of the arteries, from Dr. Dennis Finkielstein in this Howcast video.


So, what causes atherosclerosis? Atherosclerosis is the buildup of cholesterol plaque within the arteries of the body. That can lead to things like stroke or heart attack. What causes it is complicated. On one side, there are genetic factors. Those are factors you're born with and you inherit from your parents. On the other side, there are acquired risk factors, or things we do in life, or choices we make in life. Some of those choices are the way we eat, the way we exercise, and whether or not we smoke. Oftentimes, you may know if you have significant atherosclerosis by symptoms you're having that may come as chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, palpitations, or swelling of the lower extremities.

If your doctor identifies any of these symptoms with you, he or she may be able to screen you with some simple tests. Oftentimes, we start with something called a stress test, where we check to see if there are significant blockages to the arteries of the heart. It's important to treat any of the risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis. Those risk factors are high cholesterol, smoking, unhealthy eating habits, and lack of exercise.

Whether or not someone develops atherosclerosis is pretty complicated. It can depend on a number of different factors such as blood pressure, the amount of cholesterol floating around in the blood stream, the lack of exercise, or genetic factors.The treatment of atherosclerosis can be twofold. One is to see your doctor and take the medicines he or she prescribes, and the second would be to make the healthy lifestyle choices that reduce the risk of the development or progression of atherosclerosis.

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