|James M. Salander, MD, FACS
Vascular Surgery and Varicose Vein Treatment
5513 Connecticut Ave. Suite 210
Washington, DC 20015
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The arteries bring blood to all organs in the body. They deliver oxygen and nutrients, and veins carry away carbon dioxide and waste. Arteries are frequently affected by arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which builds up like rust on the inside of a pipe. This occurs in all of us beginning in our teens and progressing at varying rates and in various locations. It is a systemic disorder and can affect all blood vessels of the body (learn more in English | Spanish). This process is affected by smoking, diet, heredity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stress, age, elevated blood fats, and family history.
As the hardening-of-the-artery material builds up in a local area, it is referred to as plaque. This plaque can impair the flow of blood resulting in Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). Small blood particles (clots) can collect on the roughened, irregular surface and contribute to the narrowing. Additionally, pieces of plaque or small blood clots can break off and go downstream and affect the organ that the artery serves. If the artery goes to the brain, this process can cause a stroke. If the artery goes to the heart, this process can cause a heart attack. All the organs of the body, including the legs and kidneys, can be affected. You cannot completely prevent hardening of the arteries, but you can reduce the rate of build-up of plaque and the progression of the disease. You can also reduce the symptoms and prevent many associated problems.
How can you prevent problems from hardening of the arteries and reduce the symptoms?
What parts of the body can be affected?
Problems of hardening of the arteries in the legs, neck, or abdomen should also raise concerns about hardening of the arteries in the heart.
How can the arteries be damaged?
What might the doctor find when you are examined?
What tests may be ordered?
What treatment options are available?