Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Health Center

Font Size

Test Your Atherosclerosis Smarts

Do you know as much as you should about cholesterol, plaque, and heart disease?
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Atherosclerosis: You already know it's bad news. Hardening of the arteries is a leading cause of sickness and death in the United States. In 2005, roughly 870,000 people in this country died of cardiovascular disease largely caused by atherosclerotic problems. That's almost double the number of deaths from all cancers. You might already know what factors put you at risk -- smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and age. But what do you know about other aspects of this common yet serious condition? Are the following statements true or false?

1. Atherosclerosis usually develops in areas of the arteries where blood is flowing smoothly, better enabling fatty plaques to form.

False. Fatty plaque deposits often form at artery branch points, where blood flows more turbulently. True, plaques may be scattered throughout various arteries, but they're more common at branch points, scientists believe. The turbulent blood flow increases risk of injury to artery linings. Once linings are damaged, fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances may collect at the injured sites and form atherosclerotic plaques.

2. Atherosclerosis usually does not cause any notable symptoms until an artery is more than 70% covered by plaque buildup.

True. When plaques form, they narrow the artery and reduce blood flow. But you probably won't notice signs right away. Usually, first symptoms don't turn up until the artery is narrowed by more than 70%. Then you may feel chest pain when you're physically active because the narrowed artery can't deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to your heart. However, some people feel no signs or symptoms and don't learn they have atherosclerosis until after a heart attack or stroke.

3. A bruit is an injured part of the artery wall.

False. A bruit is a sound -- specifically, an abnormal whooshing or swishing that indicates the presence of turbulent blood flow from an artery that may be partially blocked by atherosclerosis. Your doctor may hear a bruit in an artery while listening with a stethoscope during a physical exam. If an artery is severely blocked, though, there may not be a bruit.

Today on WebMD

hdl letters stacked up
How to boost your ‘good’ cholesterol.
Learn the causes.
Compressed heart
5 habits to change.
heart rate
What’s normal? What’s not?
Lower Cholesterol 02
Heart Foods Slideshow
Compressed heart
doctor looking at xrays
Heart Disease And Ed
Lowering Cholesterol Slideshow
lowering blood pressure
Wide Awake For Heart Surgery