Hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, typically begins to cause symptoms during middle and old age, states WebMD. A common symptom of atherosclerosis is pain due to increasingly severe narrowing of arteries and the associated lack of blood flow.
Atherosclerosis is caused by damage to the endothelium, a thin layer of cells that keeps arteries functioning and healthy, according to WebMD. Common causes of this damage include smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. When the endothelium becomes damaged, plaque can form and inhibit circulation. As the plaque continues to grow, the risk of heart attack and stroke increases due to the blockage. Reducing stress, avoiding smoking, exercising regularly, eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight are the best ways to prevent atherosclerosis and other forms of heart disease.