What is arteriosclerosis?
Before knowing atherosclerosis, we will first discuss the arteries and arteriosclerosis.
Arteries are the blood vessels that deliver oxygen-rich blood from our heart to the rest of our bodies. Each artery has three layers:
Healthy arteries are elastic and flexible, but with time, the walls in the arteries may become thick and stiff, causing narrowing and hardening of arteries. It causes a restriction in the flow of blood to your tissues and organs. This condition is called arteriosclerosis.
Arteriosclerosis is a chronic disease. The intima is most affected by arteriosclerosis.
How is atherosclerosis different from arteriosclerosis?
Atherosclerosis is a type of arteriosclerosis. It happens when there is a build-up of sticky substance (plaque) mostly made up of calcium, cholesterol, and fat. More is the plaque build-up; more is the narrowing of the artery and restriction in blood flow. Contrary to the belief that atherosclerosis is a heart problem, it can occur in arteries anywhere in the body.
Why is atherosclerosis a serious health issue?
The development of plaque may begin in childhood and may get worse over time. The hardening and narrowing of the arteries may cause several health problems. A narrowed or blocked artery can not deliver enough oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to the tissue or the organ. Severe blockages may cause the death of the tissues or infections in the affected parts of the body.
Sometimes a piece of plaque can burst, leading to a clot. This clot can move with the blood circulation and get stuck anywhere in the body.
Atherosclerosis can cause serious health problems including but not limited to:
Am I at a risk of developing atherosclerosis?
Atherosclerosis can happen in anyone and at any age. The condition may begin with damage to the artery’s inner lining. The deposition of plaque occurs where the damage has occurred. Certain risk factors can stimulate arterial damage and plaque deposition.
These risk factors include:
What are the most common signs and symptoms of atherosclerosis?
Mild atherosclerosis often does not cause any symptoms. The symptoms only appear after an artery becomes narrow enough or gets entirely blocked. Many people are not aware of the condition until a medical emergency such as a heart attack or stroke happens.
Symptoms of atherosclerosis depend on the arteries that are affected:
What tests are done to diagnose atherosclerosis?
The diagnosis of atherosclerosis starts with the doctor asking your family medical history and personal medical history. The doctor may lookout for an abnormal sound, absent pulse, or weak pulse during examination with a stethoscope.
The doctor may suggest further tests to confirm the diagnosis:
What are the different ways of treating atherosclerosis?
The goals for any treatment modality are :
Depending on the severity, treatment of atherosclerosis may involve:
A doctor may prescribe the following lifestyle changes
A doctor may prescribe medicine to:
Advanced atherosclerosis may need aggressive treatment options such as:
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