What is Arteriosclerosis? - Definition & Forms

Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

You have likely heard the term 'arteriosclerosis' before, but may not know what it is. In this lesson, we will define arteriosclerosis, and discuss its various forms.

The Plumbing of Your Body

Your cardiovascular system is made up of your heart and blood vessels. Blood vessels that carry oxygen are called arteries. The arteries carry the oxygenated blood to all cells of your body. After the oxygen is delivered, veins carry the deoxygenated blood back to the heart. The heart pumps the blood to the lungs to pick up more oxygen, and the cycle continues.

Cardiovascular System
cardiovascular system

The blood vessels carry blood through your body just like the plumbing system carries water through your house. The pipes carry water to the necessary systems such as your kitchen sink, so you can get a drink of water. Or to the bathroom sink, so you can brush your teeth. But what happens when those pipes have build-up in them?

What is Arteriosclerosis?

Arteriosclerosis is a disease in which your arteries become thickened and stiff. When this happens, it restricts the blood flow. Think about the plumbing in your bathroom sink. Have you ever had a sink that would fill up with water and drain very slowly? This was because the pipes had build-up within them, which limited the water passing through them. With arteriosclerosis, the same thing happens with your arteries and the blood passing through them.

Types of Arteriosclerosis

When your ''pipes'' (your arteries) have build-up, blood flow is decreased. Since every single cell in your body requires oxygen and nutrients from the blood, decrease in blood flow can cause problems. Depending on the severity of the build-up, the cells of your body may not be receiving enough oxygen and nutrients.

Arteriosclerosis is a broad term that includes various types, differentiated by their causes. We will look at three different types now.

Hyaline Arteriosclerosis

Hyaline arteriosclerosis is seen in people who have had some increased pressure in their arteries. Hyaline is a pink material that builds up in the arterial walls, resulting in narrow arteries that limit blood flow.

Hyperplastic Arteriosclerosis

Hyperplastic arteriosclerosis occurs in people who have severely high blood pressure consistently over time. As a result of prolonged elevated blood pressure, the artery walls become like layers of onion skin, resulting in the narrowing of the arteries.


Although the two terms are often interchanged, atherosclerosis is another, specific type of arteriosclerosis. In atherosclerosis, the arteries become narrowed due to the build-up of fats, cholesterol, and other substances in the blood.

Damage to the lining of blood vessels is caused by increased blood pressure, as well as high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides; all of which can result from smoking, obesity, diabetes, and inflammation from other diseases. Blood and other substances clump at the damaged area of the blood vessel, causing build-up within the inner lining of the vessel. Over time, plaque or fatty deposits, build up within the artery, causing it to become narrowed and hardened.


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