What is Arteriosclerosis/Atherosclerosis?Causes & Treatment

Many times we oftenly hear about the heart and artery related health issues. Heart problems always not a direct cardiac arrest or vice versa. Such problems develop over the time. One such kind of disease is Arteriosclerosis or you can say Atherosclerosis.

Arteriosclerosis occurs when the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients from your heart to the rest of your body (arteries) become thick and stiff — sometimes restricting blood flow to your organs and tissues. Healthy arteries are flexible and elastic, but over time, the walls in your arteries can harden, a condition commonly called hardening of the arteries.
Whereas Atherosclerosis is a condition where the arteries become narrowed and hardened due to a buildup of plaque around the artery wall. Atherosclerosis is a specific type of arteriosclerosis, but the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis condition

Arteries circulate blood throughout the body, but when plaque – fat, cholesterol and other cellular waste – build up on artery walls, arteriosclerosis can develop. As you get older, fats, cholesterol, and calcium can collect in your arteries and form plaque. The buildup of plaque makes it difficult for blood to flow through your arteries. This buildup may occur in any artery in your body, including your arms and legs,kidneys but most commonly the heart.
Arteriosclerosis can develop into atherosclerosis.It can result in a shortage of blood and oxygen in various tissues of your body. Pieces of plaque can also break off, causing a blood clot. This condition can cause heart disease, strokes, circulation problems in the arms and legs, aneurysms that can cause life-threatening internal bleeding and chronic kidney disease.

Causes Of Atherosclerosis

Plaque buildup and subsequently hardening of the arteries restricts blood flow in the arteries, preventing your organs and tissues from getting the oxygenated blood they need to function. The following are common causes of hardening of the arteries:

High Level Of cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all the cells in your body as well as in certain foods you eat.
If the levels of cholesterol in your blood are too high,it can combine with other substances in the blood to form plaque. Plaque sticks to the walls of your arteries. This buildup of plaque is known as atherosclerosis. Such kind of hard plaque restricts or blocks blood circulation to your heart and other organs.

Diet

It’s very important to eat a healthy diet A balanced and healthy diet is very helpful to stay healthy and fit. We should have to avoid foods and drinks with added sugar and high in salt, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, candy, and desserts. The AHA recommends no more than 6 teaspoons or 100 calories of sugar a day for most women, and no more than 9 teaspoons or 150 calories a day for most men. A person must aim to have no more than 2,3000 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day.
Avoid foods high in unhealthy fats, such as trans fats. Replace them with unsaturated fats, which are better for you. If you need to lower your blood cholesterol, reduce saturated fat to no more than 5 to 6 percent of total calories.
Always follow an overall healthy dietary pattern in which you must include a wide range of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products,poultry and fish without skin , nuts and legumes etc.

Aging

As you age, your heart and blood vessels work harder to pump and receive blood. Your arteries may weaken and become less elastic, making them more susceptible to plaque buildup.

Risk Factors

Hardening of the arteries occurs over time. Besides aging,diet and high cholesterol ,factors that increase the risk of atherosclerosis include:

  • High blood pressure– High blood pressure can damage your blood vessels by making them weak in some areas. Cholesterol and other substances in your blood may reduce the flexibility of your arteries over time.
  • Smoking- Smoking tobacco products can damage your blood vessels and heart.
  • Family history- If atherosclerosis runs in your family, you may be at risk for hardening of the arteries. This condition, as well as other heart-related problems, may be inherited.
  • Lack of exercise- Regular exercise is good for your heart. It keeps your heart muscle strong and encourages oxygen and blood flow throughout your body.
  • Insulin resistance or diabetes- People with diabetes have a much higher incidence of coronary artery disease (CAD).
  • Obesity- Obesity is always proves very terrible not in a case of our physical appearance but for being a healthy and fit person. This is also very apt reason for the risk of atherosclerosis.

The symptoms of Atherosclerosis

Most symptoms of Atherosclerosis don’t show up until a blockage occurs. Common symptoms include:

  • Chest pain or Angina.
  • Pain in your leg, arm, and anywhere else that has a blocked artery.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fatigue.
  • Confusion, which occurs if the blockage affects circulation to your brain.
  • Muscle weakness in your legs from lack of circulation.

Complications

The complications of atherosclerosis depend on which arteries are blocked. For example:

  1. Coronary artery disease- The coronary arteries are blood vessels that provide your heart’s muscle tissue with oxygen and blood.When atherosclerosis narrows the arteries close to your heart, you may develop coronary artery disease, which can cause chest pain (angina), a heart attack or heart failure.
  2. Carotid artery disease- The carotid arteries are found in your neck and supply blood to your brain.When arteriosclerosis narrows the arteries close to your brain, you may develop carotid artery disease, which can cause a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke.
  3. Peripheral artery disease- Your legs, arms, and lower body depend on your arteries to supply blood and oxygen to their tissues. When atherosclerosis narrows the arteries in your arms or legs, you may develop circulation problems in your arms and legs called peripheral artery disease. This can make you less sensitive to heat and cold, increasing your risk of burns or frostbite. In rare cases, poor circulation in your arms or legs can cause tissue death (gangrene).
  4. Aneurysms- Atherosclerosis can also cause aneurysms, a serious complication that can occur anywhere in your body. An aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of your artery. Most people with aneurysms have no symptoms. Pain and throbbing in the area of an aneurysm may occur and is a medical emergency.
Aneurysms
Aneurysms complication

If an aneurysm bursts, you may face life-threatening internal bleeding. Although this is usually a sudden, catastrophic event, a slow leak is possible. If a blood clot within an aneurysm dislodges, it may block an artery at some distant point.

5. Chronic kidney disease- Atherosclerosis can cause the arteries leading to your kidneys to narrow, preventing oxygenated blood from reaching them. Over time, this can affect your kidney function, keeping waste from exiting your body.

Treatment and Recovery

Your doctor will perform a physical exam if you have symptoms of atherosclerosis. They’ll check for:

  • A weakened pulse.
  • An aneurysm, an abnormal bulging or widening of an artery due to weakness of the arterial wall.
  • Slow wound healing, which indicates a restricted blood flow.

A cardiologist may listen to your heart to see if you have any abnormal sounds. They’ll be listening for a whooshing noise, which indicates that an artery is blocked. Your doctor will order more tests if they think you may have atherosclerosis.

check up
Time to see a doctor

Tests can include:

  • A blood test to check your cholesterol levels.
  • A Doppler ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create a picture of the artery that shows if there’s a blockage.
  • An ankle-brachial index (ABI), which looks for a blockage in your arms or legs by comparing the blood pressure in each limb.
  • A magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) or a computed tomography angiography (CTA) to create pictures of the large arteries in your body.
  • A cardiac angiogram , which is a type of chest X-ray that’s taken after your heart arteries are injected with radioactive dye.
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), which measures the electrical activity in your heart to look for any areas decreased blood flow.
  • A stress test, or exercise tolerance test, which monitors your heart rate and blood pressure while you exercise on a treadmill or stationary bicycle.
Cardio check up
Cardio check up

How is atherosclerosis treated?

Treatment involves changing your current lifestyle to decrease the amount of fat and cholesterol you consume. You may need to exercise more to improve the health of your heart and blood vessels.

Unless your atherosclerosis is severe, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes as the first line of treatment. You may also need additional medical treatments, such as medications or surgery.

Lifestyle changes that help treat and prevent arteriosclerosis. Lifestyle changes can help to prevent as well as treat arteriosclerosis, especially for people with type 2 diabetes.These include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating healthy a healthy diet that”s low in saturated fat and cholesterol
  • Avoiding fatty foods
  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining a healthy weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Managing stress

Just remember to make changes one step at a time, and keep in mind what lifestyle changes are manageable for you in the long run. A good change for a better life is always awesome and brings more happiness with a good health.. isn”t it? Well.. a change for a good is always welcome.. So keep reading and stay happy and gorgeous.

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