Atherosclerosis definition: Hardening of the arteries or arteriosclerosis (Plaque: cholesterol, fats, calcium and other substances build up in the walls of arteries) is known as atherosclerosis.
The walls of arteries are thick and the lumen is somewhat narrower than veins. The lumen of arteries further gets narrowed if cholesterol, calcium and other materials deposit and form a hard wax-like substance called plaque. The thickening of the arteries wall due to plaque formation is known as Atherosclerosis. In addition to a plaque, sometimes, clots may also form in the narrowed arteries and block blood flow. There is also a possibility of a plaque being breaking down and moving to smaller arteries and blocking them.
Coronary arteries supply nutrients and oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscles. They become narrow or clogged due to this condition (coronary artery disease). Atherosclerosis leads to Coronary artery disease.
Atherosclerosis progressively develops and continues with ageing. Plague keep on building-up as a person grows older. This, in turn, keeps on making the arteries narrower and stiffer by every passing day. Eventually, it becomes quite difficult for the blood to flow through arteries.
Arteriosclerosis (Atherosclerosis) is a common disorder.
- High blood cholesterol levels (young individuals with high blood cholesterol levels are at increased risk of developing atherosclerosis)
- Eating habits: Eating excessive animal fats and diet high in saturated and trans fats
- Obesity: being overweight or obese
- High blood pressure
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- A family history of arterial disease or atherosclerosis
- Asian origin
- Excessive cholesterol production in the liver
What is the Risk if You Don’t Treat Atherosclerosis?
The most perplexing aspect of atherosclerosis is the fact that it doesn’t cause any symptoms in the beginning – and, in some cases, even in the advanced stages of clogged blood vessels. Many people thus remain unaware of this condition for years until they get to the verge of some life-threatening conditions like heart attacks and brain strokes.
What are the early signs and symptoms of atherosclerosis?
- Short episodes of chest pain – squeezing chest pain, tight pain or heavy chest pain associated with tightness of chest.
- Pain in your hand, arm, leg or anywhere else in the body due to a blocked artery
- Weakness or fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Severe headache, delirium or confusion if the blockage is in an artery that supply blood to the brain
- muscle weakness in your legs from lack of circulation.
What are the Health Risks or Other Risks of Atherosclerosis?
Among the Atherosclerosis risk factors, Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the most prominent one: Never allow to let Atherosclerosis develop and get worst. Because when left untreated, it can potentially lead to several life-threatening conditions. The bad thing about CVD – most of the times, is that the symptoms associated with it do not manifest until CVD develops completely.
What are the complications of Atherosclerosis?
Atherosclerosis causes the following conditions:
Angina – Short episodes of chest pain – squeezing chest pain, tight pain or heavy chest pain associated with tightness of chest. This type of pain often precedes a heart attack. The angina is due to coronary heart disease.
Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): Coronary Heart Disease – Coronary arteries supply oxygen and nutrients rich blood to the heart muscles. When coronary arteries are blocked or clogged with plaques, the condition is known as coronary artery disease.
Heart Attacks – When a part of the heart doesn’t get blood due to sudden blockage or obstruction in the blood flow through arteries, heart attack results. A person experiencing a heart attack experiences squeezing chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath and extreme weakness.
Stroke – The arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the brain get clogged or choked due to blockage (plaque formation blocks the artery). Owing to which, the blood supply to the brain gets interrupted or stops either completely or partially resulting in a stroke. The symptoms associated with stroke are drooping face, weakness in one arm or leg or one side of the body and slurred speech.
Transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs) – TIAs are associated with the temporary symptoms of a stroke.
Peripheral arterial disease – In this condition, the blood supply to your legs is blocked, causing leg pain when walking.
A blockage in the artery causes tissue death as the tissue is starved of blood, oxygen and nutrients. When these plaques form in the arteries that supply blood to vital organs like heart and brain, the plaques cause those arteries to harden and narrow. When this happens, the blood flow is obstructed or stopped either completely or partially resulting in restricting oxygen supply to the vital organs (heart and brain) – eventually resulting in heart attacks and brain strokes. This is a common cause of heart attacks and strokes.
How to Get Tested for Atherosclerosis?
Atherosclerosis Diagnosis (Testing for atherosclerosis): If you are a bit nervous, anxious and worried about atherosclerosis, then don’t worry, just do one thing: fix an appointment with your cardiologist or general physician. Have a discussion with your doctor regarding your risk of developing atherosclerosis owing to certain risk factors.
The risk increases with age – after age 40 and between age – 40 and 75 the risk is high. Therefore, you should undergo a cardiac health check after consulting your doctor. Your doctor, if deemed necessary, may recommend some tests to find out whether you are at risk of developing atherosclerosis and CVD.
You cardiologist may take the following aspects and factors into consideration while evaluating your risk:
- Your ethnic group, age, gender and overall health status
- Your height and weight
- Your work types
- Your family history
- Your personal history –
- if you smoke or have previously smoked
- Your cholesterol levels and blood pressure
- Your present health and past diseases
- if you have certain long-term conditions
Based on the above factors and test results, your doctor may advise you to adopt certain measures and make certain lifestyle changes as well. If your doctor finds the need to prescribe medicines, he or she will do so or may recommend further tests.
Is It Possible to Prevent Atherosclerosis?
Atherosclerosis prevention: Atherosclerosis is highly preventable by making some lifestyle changes. A healthy diet, exercise and stress-free life can help in reducing the risk of serious complications due to atherosclerosis.
Reduce your risk of atherosclerosis
The following ways can help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and may help stop atherosclerosis from getting worse:
- Stop eating unhealthy foods – junk foods, foods rich in fats – saturated fatty acids, trans fats, potato chips, foods rich in salts and sugary foods.
- Eat 4 to 5 portions of colourful fruits and vegetables every day.
- Stop smoking immediately if you smoke – if you are unable to stop smoking then go for smoking cessation therapy – talk to your doctor about it.
- Maintain a healthy weight – a healthy BMI of around 19 to 22.
- Check your BMI by using a BMI calculator and if it is on the higher side, then take the help of experts on reducing weight.
- Get into the act – exercise regularly – indulge in moderate aerobic exercise, walking, cycling and jogging for at least 15 to 20 minutes daily. Do strength exercise twice weekly as well.
- Cut down alcohol intake.
Atherosclerosis Treatment: If you are searching for someone who can guide you, counsel you and offer you the best treatment for atherosclerosis in Hyderabad, you can come and talk to me.