Last reviewed 04/2021

Atherosclerosis is a patchy, focal disease of the intima and inner media of large and medium sized musculo-elastic arteries including the aorta.

Atherosclerosis is characterised by:

  • proliferation of:
    • smooth muscle cells
    • macrophages
    • fibroblasts
  • lipid deposition
  • and increase in ground substance and collagen
  • necrosis

These are the typical components of a mature atheromatous plaque.

There are a number of risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis. Some of these, e.g. age, sex and family history cannot be modified. Other risk factors such as serum cholesterol, smoking habits, and hypertension can be altered.