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Atherosclerosis of Aorta: Causes and Symptoms

Medically reviewed by Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD · General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Kip Soliva · Updated May 27, 2021

Atherosclerosis of Aorta: Causes and Symptoms

Atherosclerosis of aorta refers to the buildup of plaque around the inside wall of the aorta.

This is a condition that occurs when the blood vessels become thick and stiff—to the point of restriction in relation to the blood flow of the patient. Atherosclerosis is the reason why most people have a heart attack or stroke.

Also known as a specific type of Arteriosclerosis, this condition specifically refers to the accumulation or buildup of cholesterol and fat (called “plaques’) in and on the artery walls of the patient, otherwise known as plaque.

Atherosclerosis of Aorta causes

Atherosclerosis is not only considered as a heart problem. But it’s also a condition that can affect a patient’s arteries anywhere in the body. There are different names of atherosclerosis depending on which arteries it affects.

The aorta is the main blood vessel responsible for sending oxygen-rich blood from the heart out to the patient’s brain and the rest of the body.

The plaque buildup around the walls of the aorta is sometimes referred to as the hardening of the arteries.

Atherosclerosis of Aorta Causes

Atherosclerosis of aorta is a progressive and slow-paced disease that may appear as early as childhood.

This condition may begin with injury or damage to the inner layer of an artery. The damage may be caused by a multitude of reasons, including:

  • Levels of cholesterol that are higher than usual
  • An amount of triglycerides that are higher than normal. They are defined as a lipid found in the patient’s blood
  • High levels of blood pressure
  • Vices relating to tobacco intake, like smoking cigarettes for example
  • Obesity, diabetes, and resistance to Insulin
  • Diseases that lead to or cause symptoms synonymous to inflammation, such as lupus, arthritis, and other infections, or inflammations from unknown sources

Once the artery is affected, other substances, including blood cells, usually bundle up at the destination of injury. They can build up inside the artery.

Over time, plaque consisting eventually blocks the damaged area and stiffens up. This narrows the patient’s arteries and restricts blood flow.

Atherosclerosis: Know The Signs And Symptoms

Atherosclerosis of Aorta Symptoms

Atherosclerosis of aorta can cause several health problems, especially when the plaque buildup becomes severe and detrimental. This may lead to the weakening of the aorta’s wall, which could lead to its tearing or stretching.

This may lead to escalating problems, such as the breaking open of pieces of the plaque. This, in turn, causes blood clots to form, both of which are capable of travelling to other parts of the body and block blood flow to tissues past the clot.

Generally, symptoms are not detected by most patients, as they are usually unaware of the existence of the problem.

This is because symptoms do not appear until an artery is severely narrowed or totally blocked. Most patients are unaware of the disease until they experience a stroke or a heart attack.

Atherosclerosis of aorta differs from what is usually diagnosed. This is because it involves the artery that is transporting blood from the heart, as compared to arteries which transport blood to the heart.

It is worth noting that even if you have no symptoms, having Atherosclerosis of aorta puts you at risk of the following:


A stroke can occur when a blood clot travels to the brain and blocks blood flow, and is very dangerous in nature, because if there is a lack of blood and oxygen, the affected part of the brain is at risk of dying.

Aortic aneurysm

An aortic aneurysm refers to a large bulge in the wall of the aorta, this bulge can burst or explode, causing serious and dangerous internal bleeding.

Aortic dissection

This is a tear between the inner and outer layers of the aorta wall. The tear can cause the wall to burst and separate, this can cause serious damage in the form of internal bleeding.

Limb ischemia

Refers to the state of a patient’s limb, in which most cases is a leg, is not receiving enough oxygen. It occurs when a blood clot moves from the aorta to an artery in a leg. The blood clot then disrupts blood supply to the leg, posing the risk of permanent leg tissue damage for the patient.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Atherosclerosis of Aorta

Diagnosis of atherosclerosis of aorta is conducted by a patient’s doctor based on medical history, family history, test results and physical exams.

A test called a lipid profile is often done on people who are suspected to have atherosclerosis. This measures the different forms of cholesterol and serves as a targeted basis to prevent further buildup of plaques.

Usually physicians order tests to check for specific forms of atherosclerosis. For atherosclerosis of the aorta, aortograms (or CT scan of the aorta) may be requested by your doctor to assess the severity of the condition.

These scans are used to check the health of the patient’s aorta in most cases wherein there is a suspicion of atherosclerosis of aorta.

Atherosclerosis of the aorta can be treated with lifestyle changes and medicine or drugs that aim to help lower one’s risk of serious complications.

These medicines can include:

  • Blood pressure medication, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or beta-blockers.
  • Cholesterol medication. A prime of example of which are statins.
  • Blood clot prevention medication, such as aspirin.

It is also possible for the patient to get a Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan, otherwise known as an MRI scan.

The same healthy lifestyle changes and adjustments recommended to treat atherosclerosis is also recommended to help prevent it.

These changes include:

  • Healthy diet and food choicesrich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
  • Engage in behavioral changes that eventually lead to quitting vices such as smoking and drinking alcohol
  • Regular exercise for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week.
  • Maintaining a healthy and manageable weight
  • 10 Ways to Prevent Atherosclerosis

    It is important to let patients know that these steps are to be taken gradually and one at a time to ensure efficacy, as lifestyle changes do not happen overnight.

    Key Takeaways

    The safest way to reduce atherosclerosis of aorta risk is to practice a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

    The transformation of a patient’s lifestyle is known as a difficult step. But it is the role of medical practitioners and caretakers to encourage patients to commit to treatment and preventive measures.

    Learn more about atherosclerosis, here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD

    General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

    Written by Kip Soliva · Updated May 27, 2021

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