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What Causes Atherosclerosis?
It is unknown exactly how atherosclerosis begins or what causes it. Atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive, vascular disease that may start as early as childhood. However, the disease has the potential to progress rapidly. It is generally characterized by the accumulation of fatty deposits along the innermost layer of the arteries. If the disease process progresses, plaque formation may take place. This thickening narrows the arteries and can decrease blood flow or completely block the flow of blood to organs and other body tissues and structures.
Some scientists think that certain risk factors may be associated with atherosclerosis, including:
- Elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes mellitus (type 1 diabetes)
- Physical inactivity
How does atheroclerosis progress?
There is a gradual build-up of plaque or thickening of the inside of the walls of the artery, causing a decrease in the amount of blood flow, and a decrease in the oxygen supply to the vital body organs and extremities.
A heart attack may occur if the oxygenated blood supply is reduced to the heart. A stroke may occur if the oxygenated blood supply is cut off to the brain.
Gangrene may occur, if the oxygenated blood supply is reduced to the arms and legs.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you may have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.
Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.