Condition of the arteries characterized by hardening and fatty degeneration of the arterial wall. It is responsible for most deaths in the Western world, and should be considered the number one epidemic. The first stage in the thickening of the arterial wall is damage to the layer of cells lining the interior of the arteries caused by persistent action of certain substances in the blood (such as cholesterol, fatty acids or by-products of smoking) and by the forces exerted on the cells by high blood pressure. Tiny blood clots form at the damaged point, the cells in the arterial wall are divided and fat accumulates. This mass grows slowly but surely, reducing the internal diameter of the artery and making it more difficult for blood to pass along it; finally the mass can block the artery completely. It is not known why some people are prone to atherosclerosis and others not, or only slightly so, but there are a number of so-called risk factors which encourage the condition. The three most important are: high cholesterol and fat content in the blood, high blood pressure, and cigarette smoking. Other less important risk factors are fatty degeneration, diabetes, stress and too little exercise. The consequences of atherosclerosis depend on the artery affected: narrowing of the arteries of the leg causes intermittent claudication, narrowing of the coronary arteries causes angina pectoris, closure of a branch of a cerebral artery causes a stroke. athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) Fungal infection of the skin, but not a form of eczema. This complaint occurs mainly in people who swim regularly, although other people also suffer from it. An itchy skin develops, usually between the little toe and the adjacent one. A small red patch forms between the toes, and the skin becomes damaged and starts to peel. Painful chapping often also occurs. The condition gradually spreads towards the soles of the feet. These symptoms are caused by an infection with a fungus found in swimming pools and the changing rooms of sports facilities. The fungus multiplies readily in a damp environment, and the spots therefore develop in places which the sufferer has not dried carefully. Not every skin disorder between the toes is caused by this fungus. There are also various types of eczema which can develop there. Psoriasis can also occur between the toes. Athlete’s foot can be prevented by carefully drying the feet, particularly between the toes. Once the condition has arisen, it should be treated with a fungicidal ointment.