What's at risk
Damage to a coronary artery causes less blood to flow to the heart muscle. The decreased blood flow may lead to chest pain, a common symptom of angina. When a coronary is blocked, oxygen-rich blood can't reach the heart muscle artery beyond the block, and a heart attack occurs. If the muscle goes without oxygen for too long, that part of the heart muscle dies.
If an artery that carries blood to the kidneys is blocked, the kidneys may be damaged.
The aorta is the body's main artery. If this artery is damaged, the affected section can weaken and balloon out, which is called an aortic aneurysm.
Arteries to the brain can become blocked. When this happens, part of the brain can't get oxygen and is damaged, causing a stroke. Stroke can result in speech and memory problems, paralysis and even death.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
If the arteries in the leg are clogged with plaque, you may have cramping or aching in your thighs, calves or buttocks when you walk. This is known as peripheral artery disease or PAD.