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Arteriosclerosis

The Cause Of Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis means "hardening of a paste-like, fatty material." This pasty, fatty material develops within arteries over a period of many years. If the condition is not treated, this material will eventually harden into atherosclerotic plaques.

Although researchers continue to speculate about how and why this fatty material gets into arteries, a consensus The progression of arteriosclerosis. Illustration by Hans & Cassidy. Courtesy of Gale Group.




has emerged in the last 20 years that points to injury of the artery walls as the underlying cause of atherosclerosis. This injury can be mechanical, such as an artery that has been nicked or cut in some way. Injury can also be in the form of exposure to various agents, such as toxins (including cigarette smoke), viruses, or cholesterol. When the artery wall is injured, it tries to heal itself. The response of the artery cells and the immune system to the injury leads, paradoxically, to the formation of plaques.


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