Atherosclerosis is a cardiovascular disease that leads to hardening or narrowing of arteries due to the accumulation of plaque on the artery walls. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the organs in the body. These arteries are lined up with cells called endothelium that help to keep the blood flow easy and smooth. But due to the occurrence of Atherosclerosis, the endothelium cells become damaged, allowing harmful cholesterol to build upon the wall. Over time, various substances made from cholesterol, macrophages, and calcium can get collected on the walls and create plaque on the walls. This will slowly harden and narrow the arteries limiting the flow of blood to the different parts of the body.
Sometimes the plaque grows to a certain size and stops growing, which leads to no problems. Sometimes, however, the plaque obstructs the artery and disrupts the blood flow around the body. This increases the likelihood of blood clots that can lead to life-threatening conditions. Finally, the plaque cracks open in some situations. If this occurs, platelets accumulate in the affected area and may bind together to form blood clots. This can block the artery, resulting in life-threatening complications including stroke and heart attack.
Atherosclerosis affects different arteries and depending upon this various symptoms occur and treatment is given.
- Carotid Artery Disease: Carotid arteries supply the brain with blood. Restricted blood supply can cause a stroke, and a person may experience a range of symptoms as a result of this type of atherosclerosis, including fatigue, breathing difficulties, headache, facial numbness, paralysis.
- Renal Artery Disease: If plaque builds up in renal arteries, chronic kidney disease may occur. These arteries supply the kidneys with oxygen-rich blood. Chronic kidney disease causes a progressive loss of function in the kidneys over time. The kidney’s main function is to remove waste and extra water from the body which can adversely be affected.
- Peripheral Artery Disease: Peripheral artery disease (P.A.D.) occurs when plaque is developed in the major arteries that provide the legs, arms, and pelvis with oxygen-rich blood. When blood flow is diminished or blocked to these parts of your body, you may have numbness, discomfort, and sometimes dangerous infections.
- Coronary arteries: Coronary arteries provide blood to the heart. When the blood supply to the heart is limited, it can cause angina and heart attack. Symptoms of this include vomiting, extreme anxiety, chest pain, coughing, feeling faint.
Causes of Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive disease that may begin as early as childhood. Although the exact cause is unknown, although the exact cause is unknown, the damage may be caused by High blood pressure, High cholesterol, High triglycerides, a type of fat (lipid) in your blood, Smoking and other sources of tobacco, Insulin resistance, obesity or diabetes, Inflammation from diseases, such as arthritis, lupus or infections, or inflammation of unknown cause.
Diagnosis of Atherosclerosis
- Angiogram, in which your doctor puts dye into your arteries so they’ll be visible on an X-ray
- Ankle-brachial index, a test to compare blood pressures in your lower leg and arm
- Blood tests to look for things that raise your risk of having atherosclerosis, like high cholesterol or blood sugar
- Chest X-ray to check for signs of heart failure
- CT scan or magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) to look for hardened or narrowed arteries
- EKG, a record of your heart’s electrical activity
- The stress test, in which you exercise while health care professionals watch your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing
- You might also need to see doctors who specialize in certain parts of your body, like cardiologists or vascular specialists, depending on your condition.
It’s usually there to stay once you’ve got a blockage. But you can slow or stop plaques with medicine and lifestyle changes. With aggressive treatment, they can even shrink slightly.
- Various drugs can slow or even halt atherosclerosis. Some common medications are cholesterol medicines, antiplatelet medications, beta-blocker medications, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, water pills.
- Surgical procedures such as angioplasty and stent placement, endarterectomy, fibrinolytic therapy, bypass surgery.
- Many lifestyle changes and home remedies can tremendously help to prevent heart attacks, strokes and other severe conditions caused by atherosclerosis, such as not smoking at all, exercising most days of the week, eating healthy foods, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress well.