Hardening of the arteries, or arteriosclerosis, is a degenerative disease affecting the blood vessels throughout the body. A progressive disease, hardening of the arteries increases the risk of heart attack and stroke and typically causes a variety of symptoms.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can be caused, at least in part, by hardening of the arteries. As arteries throughout the body harden and lose elasticity, the heart must work harder to pump blood through them, which typically leads to an increase in blood pressure.
Shortness of Breath
Hardening of the coronary arteries reduces blood flow to the heart, which reduces the heart's pumping ability. This commonly leads to shortness of breath.
As the coronary arteries become narrowed, blood flow to the heart is reduced, which can cause chest pain, or angina, especially during physical exertion.
Hardening of the arteries can affect the blood vessels supplying blood (oxygen) to the brain. If a blood clot forms in a brain artery narrowed by arteriosclerosis, the clot can block blood flow to a portion of the brain and cause a stroke.
A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs when blood flow through one of the coronary arteries becomes blocked, thereby cutting off oxygen to a portion of the heart muscle.