Hardening of the arteries

Heart Disease

Symptoms of hardening of the arteries

Symptoms include:

  • Pain in the calf muscles, thighs or buttocks when walking or exercising
  • Trouble sleeping

If untreated, it can also cause:

  • Angina
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Gangrene of the leg

Causes of hardening of the arteries

The causes are unknown, but it may be due to high cholesterol and fat levels in the blood, high blood pressure and smoking. Deposits build up on the artery wall, and may stimulate the cells in the wall to produce further substances adding further layers of blockage. Fat builds up around and within these cells causing narrowing, or stenosis.

The inner layer of the artery wall thickens considerably, reducing the blood flow and starving the heart and/or brain of oxygen. A blood clot can also form, blocking off the artery completely. The arteries of the leg are often affected, as well as abdominal arteries and those near the pelvis – iliac arteries. This is called peripheral arterial disease.

Risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Family history
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