The National Institutes of Health describes Atherosclerosis as "a disease in which plaque builds up on the inside of your arteries. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances found in the blood." Over time, plaque hardens and narrows your arteries. Then the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of your body is reduced. This can lead to serious problems including heart attack, stroke and even death.
We don't fully understand why atherosclerosis occurs. However, certain risk factors may increase your chances of developing it. While you can control some risk factors, such as lack of physical activity, smoking and unhealthy eating, some factors are beyond our control, including age and family history of heart disease.
In the past 20 years, better treatments have reduced the number of deaths from atherosclerosis-related diseases. These treatments also have improved the quality of life for people with these diseases. Still, the number of people diagnosed with atherosclerosis remains high, and atherosclerosis remains one of the most common causes of death worldwide.