In the past, atherosclerosis was largely defined in terms of the accumulation of plaque or bad cholesterol (LDL) within the arterial walls, leading to obstructions. However, it is now understood to be more than a simple build-up of plaque.
This obstruction is actually a physical response to injuries in the walls’ lining. Causes of arterial wall injuries include high blood pressure, infectious microbes, or excessive presence of a certain amino acid called homocysteine. Studies have demonstrated that inflammatory molecules stimulate events leading to the development of atherosclerotic lesions.
Some researchers consider atherosclerosis a natural type of band-aid approach to cover an injury or inflammation. When the band-aid becomes too thick or breaks loose, symptoms of a chronic or acute nature occur. In mild cases, this can lead to diminished oxygen supply to the tissue on the other side of the occlusion; in acute cases, it can cause severe strokes or heart attacks.