Plaques are small collections of cholesterol and calcium that form in the arteries. Plaques, by themselves, are not harmful. They are a standard response that our bodies have when trying to repair damage to the inner lining of the blood vessels. As we age, various risk factors can cause damage to our blood vessels, including our coronary arteries that supply blood to our heart. Our bodies attempt to repair the damage with layers of cholesterol and calcium. These layers are then covered by a "scab" made of a fibrous layer. If the scab happens to be knocked off, the exposed layer of calcium and cholesterol triggers the formation of a clot in the arteries. This prevents blood from reaching the heart muscle, causing a heart attack.
The composition of the plaque is a factor that is linked to your risk of having a heart attack. This includes the thickness of the scab and the mixture of the calcium and cholesterol. Other risk factors that contribute to the likelihood of a heart attack include family history, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, weight, and other chronic medical problems, such as diabetes. (Related: Figs amazing fruit: Prevent cancer, diabetes, heart attack.)
A healthy lifestyle is your best defense against heart attacks. Here are some ways you can be proactive with your heart health and lower your risk of heart disease: