Why does plaque matter when I have high cholesterol?

Over time, areas of plaque in blood vessels can thicken. As they do, they narrow the space in the artery through which blood can flow, as well as the oxygen and nutrients it carries. But this decreased blood flow may go on for years without causing any symptoms.

Plaque can narrow the arteries that supply blood to your heart, called the coronary arteries. When that happens, your heart may become damaged or weakened. This condition is called by several names: coronary heart disease, coronary artery disease, or heart disease. When your heart doesn't receive enough blood, you may feel chest pain. Doctors call this angina or angina pectoris. Usually people feel the pain in their chest or in their left arm and shoulder. Some people feel pain in their back, neck, jaw, or teeth. Sometimes when the heart isn't receiving enough blood and oxygen, there's no pain. This lack of symptoms is more common in people who have diabetes. Even though there's no pain, damage is still occurring.