Aortic atherosclerosis is the hardening of the aortic artery that occurs when plaque, a substance made of cholesterol, fats and cellular waste, builds up inside the arteries, partially or completely blocking the flow of blood. According to the American Heart Association, atherosclerosis is a progressive disease that may begin in childhood and often does not become a real danger until individuals reach their 50s or 60s.
Atherosclerosis leads to a number of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease and chronic kidney disease. If a piece of plaque breaks off or a blood clot forms in the artery blocking the flow of blood from the heart, a heart attack occurs. Although the exact cause of atherosclerosis is unknown, many experts believe that plaque begins forming when the inner lining of the artery is damaged. This arterial damage is caused by smoking, high blood pressure and high triglyceride and cholesterol levels in the blood, according to the American Heart Association.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death in the United States, accounting for approximately 600,000 deaths each year. Approximately 720,000 individuals in the United States experience a heart attack each year.