Atherosclerosis can occur in any medium/large artery supplying oxygenated blood under high pressure
Atherosclerosis most frequently affects the following arteries:
• Aorta (largest artery - supplies blood to all body parts)
• Coronary arteries (supplying blood to heart)
• Carotid and vertebral arteries (supplying blood to neck/head)
• Iliac/femoral arteries (supplying blood to pelvic area).
Atherosclerosis eventually causes:
- Stenosis (narrowing);
- Sometimes accompanied by arteriosclerosis (hardening of the artery lumen (throughway))
• Which decreases circulation
• And reduces arterial elasticity
• Compromising the dilation of blood vessels when needed - such as during strenuous exercise.
The accumulation (swelling) is always in the intima
(between the endothelial lining and the smooth muscle wall)
Atherosclerotic plaques characteristically occur in high pressure/turbulent areas in arterial blood vessels
In regions of branching and marked curvature at areas of geometric irregularity. i.e. where blood undergoes sudden changes in velocity and direction of flow.
It does not occur in veins carrying deoxygenated blood. i.e. under pressure 8 times lower than the arteries
Atherosclerosis is diagnosed as:
Coronary heart/artery disease (i.e. CHD or CAD)
2 main coronary arteries (branch off the aorta) that supply blood to the heart muscle. Atherosclerosis/arteriosclerosis reduces their supply, leading to blood insufficiency (ischemia) to the heart;
(There's that incorrect depiction of plaque placement again! :) )
Peripheral artery disease
Iliac/Femoral Arteries -atherosclerosis/arteriosclerosis causes a decrease in blood flow to the legs and feet that can injure nerves and other tissues.
Axillary/Brachial Arteries. Arm artery disease is a rare form of PAD, but the most common cause is atherosclerosis in the arm arteries, which can cut off circulation to the hand; symptoms include pain, weakness, fingers turning blue, and gangrene.
Carotid artery disease
Carotid and Vertebral Arteries. Atherosclerosis/arteriosclerosis reduces the oxygen-rich blood supply to the brain. Carotid artery disease accounts for well over 95% of symptoms causing cerebrovascular disease. When the carotid arteries are obstructed, you are at an increased risk for a stroke.
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