Atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries, is a chronic arterial disease that develops over many decades and is a major cause of deaths worldwide. A raised patch or plaque develops in the arterial wall that is rich in fat, cholesterol and calcium, and over time this hardens and narrows the artery depriving the region supplied by the blood vessel of oxygen (ischemia). Rupture of the plaque causes blood cell fragments called platelets to stick to the surface of the injury, leading to thrombosis (formation of a blood clot) which can result in a total blockage of the affected artery. If a coronary artery is affected, a myocardial infarction (heart attack) may result or if a cerebral artery supplying the brain is affected ischemic stroke may result.

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