The Definition of Plaque in the Arteries


Arteries are the life support system of your body. This network of blood vessels carries oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. Normally, arteries have a smooth healthy interior, but in some people, arterial plaque builds up. This leaves arteries functioning at lower capacities and potentially leads to dangerous cardiovascular conditions.


what causes plaque in the arteries

What is the definition of plaque?


Plaque is a waxy, fatty substance that is made from several compounds that normally circulate through your bloodstream. Some of these substances include cholesterol, fat, calcium and fibrin, a chemical that clots blood. As plaque increases in the bloodstream, your body actually responds by producing more of the components in plaque, further increasing plaque levels.


What is plaque build-up?


While plaque is made from normally occurring substances in the body, it does not build-up in healthy arteries. The walls of unhealthy arteries are not completely smooth, and plaque has cracks and crevices where it can attach to the arterial wall. Plaque build-up starts slowly, but over the years and depending on your lifestyle, it can get so bad that it actually starts blocking blood flow completely. As the blood flow slows down, the artery walls start to harden and receive permanent damage.


Why does plaque build-up?


Although the triggers of plaque build-up are not completely understood, there are some obvious risk factors that increase your chances of experiencing high levels of plaque and build-up. High cholesterol, smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure are all known to damage the arterial walls and give plaque the chance it needs to start building. Bad LDL cholesterol can also build-up inside an artery's structure, changing the smoothness of its walls.


What are the complications of plaque build-up?


When plaque build-up gets so bad that arteries start clogging completely, it is often a life-threatening condition. The specific condition is usually determined by where the plaque build-up happens. For example, clogged arteries in the legs lead to peripheral arterial disease, which causes numbness, pain and poor wound healing. If the condition gets bad enough, it can result in tissue damage in the feet and legs that can lead to amputation. Plaque build-up around the arteries that directly supply the heart, or coronary artery disease, is the primary cause of heart attacks.


With this definition of plaque, you can better understand what plaque is, what it does and why it is dangerous. There are risk factors that can increase plaque formation and build-up along your arteries, but living a healthy lifestyle and eating a proper diet significantly reduces the levels of plaque in your body.