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Hardening of the arteries

  • Alternative Names

    Atherosclerosis; Arteriosclerosis; Plaque buildup - arteries


    Hardening of the arteries does not cause symptoms until blood flow to part of the body becomes slowed or blocked.

    If the arteries to the heart become narrow, blood flow to the heart can slow down or stop. This can cause chest pain (stable angina), shortness of breath, and other symptoms.

    Narrowed or blocked arteries may also cause problems and symptoms in your intestines, kidneys, legs, and brain.

    Signs and tests

    A health care provider will perform a physical exam and listen to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope. Atherosclerosis can create a whooshing or blowing sound ("bruit") over an artery.

    Some national guidelines recommend having the first screening cholesterol test at age 20. Everyone should have their first screening test by age 35 in men, and age 45 in women. (Note: Different experts recommend different starting ages.)

    A number of imaging tests may be used to see how well blood moves through your arteries.

    • Doppler tests use ultrasound or sound waves.
    • Magnetic resonance arteriography (MRA) is a special type of MRI scan
    • Special CT scans called CT angiography
    • Arteriograms or angiography use x-rays to see inside the arteries