WHAT IS THE AORTA? The aorta is the largest artery in the human body. It carries blood away from the heart to other parts of the body. Part of it runs through the chest; this is called the thoracic aorta. Once it reaches the abdomen, it is known as the abdominal aorta. An aneurysm is a bulge in a blood vessel, like an over-inflated inner tube. They can develop if the wall of the aorta is weakened by the build-up of fatty deposits called plaque (atherosclerosis). The larger an aneurysm becomes, the greater the likelihood that it will burst.
WHAT IS ARTERY PLAQUE: Plaque doesn't just grow on your teeth. It can also form inside your arteries -- the blood vessels that carry oxygen and blood to the heart, brain and other parts of the body. Arteries have an inner layer of muscle. When it is damaged, plaque can form, sometimes leading to a bulge in the wall of the artery. The bulges can grow big enough to cause the inner lining to rupture. The body responds by sending clotting fibers to the damaged site. Minerals, especially calcium, can become trapped in the net of fibers, and so can fats like cholesterol. The minerals and fats build up over time, causing the arteries to narrow. Blood can't flow so easily through the restricted arteries. The arteries can also become clogged, stopping blood flow completely.