Normally, the walls of an artery are smooth, allowing blood to flow unimpeded. Atherosclerosis is when harmful material collects on the wall of an artery. This material includes fat, cholesterol, and other substances.
Eventually, the material builds up and a plaque is formed, narrowing the artery. When the build-up is severe, a clot could block the vessel completely.
Reviewed last on: 10/10/2008
Larry A. Weinrauch, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Private Practice Specializing in Cardiovascular Disease, Watertown, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.