The term ``atherosclerosis'' refers to the build up fatty, waxy deposits called plaque in arteries....
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The term ``atherosclerosis'' refers to the build up fatty, waxy deposits called plaque in arteries. The arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood containing oxygen throughout the body. If the build up of plaque is large enough, blood flow can be reduced. If the plaque breaks off or ruptures, a blood clot forms. It can completely block the artery or travel to another part of the body. Most people think about atherosclerosis in relation to the heart. Reduced blood flow in the coronary arteries can cause symptoms like chest pain and fatigue and blocked blood flow results in a heart attack. But atherosclerosis is a systemic disease and the same process can occur in any artery in the body. Build up of plaque in the carotid arteries, which supply blood to the brain, can result in a stroke. Atherosclerosis in the major arteries supplying blood to the arms, legs, and pelvis can result in peripheral arterial disease. Blockage of the renal arteries, which supply the kidneys, can result in kidney failure. Many scientists believe atherosclerosis begins with damage to the endothelium - the inner most wall of the artery. Preventing and treating atherosclerosis includes addressing factors that promote this damage, including cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes.