David Greig, of Ilam School, asks :-

What is atherosclerosis?

John Elliott, a Cardiologist at the Christchurch School of Medicine, responded.

Blood is pumped around the body in thin-walled tubes called arteries. By the time we all leave high school, some parts of our artery walls start to become thickened by a mixture of fat (Cholesterol), calcium and scar tissue. This thickening is called atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.

As the wall of the artery gets thicker, the inside of the artery gets smaller and the blood flow slows down or stops. The effects of atherosclerosis depends on where the artery is in our body or what organ is supplied by that artery. If the atherosclerosis is in an artery supplying the heart we may get chest pains and a heart attack, if in our brain a stroke or paralysis and if in our legs we may have difficulty in keeping our feet warm or difficulty in walking.

Atherosclerosis gets worse more quickly and at a younger age in people who smoke, who have high blood pressure, high levels of fat or cholesterol in their blood, diabetes, or are over weight. That is why you are wise to never smoke and to eat healthy foods, now and in the future.