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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury


Whakangako ia-tuku

Atherosclerosis (a-ther-oh-scler-oh-sis) is a build-up of plaque on the inner lining of artery walls, which causes the artery to narrow. Plaque is made up of fats, cholesterol and other material.

Narrowing of your arteries reduces the blood flow to your organs and other parts of your body. This means that less oxygen is delivered to those parts of your body.

Complications of atherosclerosis depend on which arteries are affected.

Reducing your risk of atherosclerosis

You cannot control all risk factors, but lifestyle changes can help you lower some risks. This means:

Diagnosing atherosclerosis

Your general practice team will ask you questions about your health and about your family's health. Your symptoms will help them diagnose if you have atherosclerosis. They will also arrange blood tests to check your cholesterol and sugar levels.

Your general practice team may also refer you to a vascular specialist (a surgical doctor who specialises in blood vessels). The vascular specialist might arrange tests like an echocardiogram and a CT scan. They might also arrange further tests like an ankle-brachial index (for peripheral vascular disease), a doppler ultrasound and an angiogram. For information about these tests, see Tests for blood vessel problems.

Treating atherosclerosis

Treatment options include medication and surgery.

Taking medication

Your doctor might prescribe medicines to:


There are several types of surgery.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed August 2022.


Page reference: 403772

Review key: HIBLV-403653