What is Atherosclerosis?
Arteries are blood vessels which carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the entire body. Atherosclerosis is damage due to inflammation of healthy arteries.
Atherosclerosis is often called “hardening of the arteries”. When your arteries harden with calcium deposits called plaque, blood flow can be seriously restricted or blocked. But the more dangerous consequence is the sudden rupture of plaque that causes an "attack" or "stroke."
The artery is divided into three separate part: the outer layer comprised of connective tissue made of collagen fibers, the middle layer known as the media made of smooth muscle and elastic fibers, and the inner layer known as the intima made of endothelial cells. During the Carotid Intima Media Thickness ultrasound we are looking for inflammation and plaque in the intima and media layers.
Plaque collects in your arteries due to complicated interactions between genetics and other conditions, like high blood pressure, lipids, inflammation and diabetes. Most of the time plaque heals and calcifies becoming stable much like scar tissue. It’s there but doesn’t cause life-threatening events.
If the plaque that is building up in the artery is unstable, it is vulnerable to inflammation causing the plaque to rupture the endothelium and cause a clot to form in the artery lumen. If the clot blocks an artery in your heart, you experience a heart attack, and if it causes a blockage of the arteries to your brain, you experience a stroke.
Atherosclerosis and its progression is not inevitable as we age. Using new science, new tests and new treatments, we can halt or regress the disease in our arteries. Our priority is prevention of arterial disease and its consequences.