Achronic disease characterized by abnormal thickening and hardening of the arterial walls with resulting loss of elasticity. It may produce death or disability by narrowing and occluding the arteries supplying such vital organs as the heart, brain and kidneys. Medium-sized arteries are usually affected. The middle coat of the artery becomes thicker and more rigid, a natural change in old age but occurring earlier in some individuals. There is a definite association with high blood pressure in many cases. It is much more common in patients with diabetes mellitus and is also a common finding in gout. Other less certain associations are with alcoholism and lead poisoning.
Arteriosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is characterized by an irregular distribution of lipid deposit in the intima (innermost) of large and medium-sized arteries. Both diseases are main causes of a myocardial infarction. To lessen the risk, it is necessary to exercise, control the weight with a healthy diet, and not to smoke. The disease tends to occur in industrialized societies where people consume much animal protein.