Arteriosclerosis and Coronary Artery Disease


Maj West
Arteriosclerosis is a general term for the thickening and hardening of arteries as a result of cholesterol deposits in their walls. Arteriosclerosis in the coronary arteries reduces the amount of blood that reaches and nourishes the muscle of the heart. Blocked arteries, even if they’re only partially blocked, may not provide enough oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. The result is coronary artery disease, or CAD.

At first, a person with CAD may notice increased difficulty with physical activity. Climbing stairs, for example, requires additional work by the legs, and the heart pumps harder and faster to meet the increased demand for oxygen by the leg muscles. When the coronary arteries are partially blocked or narrowed, the heart can’t get enough oxygen to keep up with the needs of the leg muscles. When the blockage becomes more severe, the inadequate supply of oxygen is often sensed as chest pain. Eventually, the patient may experience pain with minimal activity or even while resting.

When arteriosclerosis occurs in the arteries that supply blood to your legs and feet, it’s called peripheral artery disease, or PAD. The decreased blood flow to your legs can lead to nerve and tissue damage. A person with PAD may experience pain, fatigue, or burning in the muscles of their feet, calves, or thighs, especially during walking or exercise. But over time, these symptoms can start to occur more quickly and with less exercise. In severe cases, a person might feel pain, numbness, or cramps even during rest.