Atherosclerosis, a common disorder, occurs when a fatty substance builds up inside the artery walls. As it accumulates, the substance thickens and solidifies. If enough collects, the artery can become completely blocked off. Atherosclerosis is a version of arteriosclerosis. However, the two terms are often used interchangeably. As people age, their chances of developing atherosclerosis increase, and this condition can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Causes of Atherosclerosis
The material that builds up along the artery walls, known as plaque, is a mixture of fat and cholesterol among other things. Over time, the plaque narrows and stiffens the arteries, reducing blood flow. If the circulation through the coronary arteries becomes restricted, the quantity of blood reaching the heart may be reduced or stopped altogether. This can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath, heart attack, and other symptoms.
When pieces of plaque break away from the wall of the artery and drift through the bloodstream, your chances of heart attack and stroke increase. Plaque deposits also attract blood clots, which can impede blood flow. If the clot migrates to the heart, lungs, or brain, it may trigger a stroke, heart attack, or pulmonary embolism.
Atherosclerosis Risk Factors
Risk factors for atherosclerosis include:
Evidence shows that these ailments have also been connected to atherosclerosis:
Symptoms of Atherosclerosis
Typically, people suffering from atherosclerosis do not experience any related symptoms unless blood flow is reduced or stopped. If this is the case, the person may notice chest or leg discomfort, depending on the affected artery. Sometimes, symptoms present themselves only if the person is physically active.
A physician will probably recommend a low-fat diet, weight loss if you are obese, and exercise to treat atherosclerosis. A variety of medication can be taken to manage atherosclerosis, and blood thinners may be administered to combat the formation of clots. Additional prescription drugs may be prescribed to reduce cholesterol and maintain healthy blood pressure.
Atherosclerosis can contribute to coronary heart disease. If you have been diagnosed with this disease, but you are not displaying any symptoms, you may be treated with medical procedures known as angioplasty and stenting. Angioplasty does not increase lifespan, but it can help minimize angina and other symptoms of coronary heart disease. In addition, it can save your life during a heart attack. Other patients may be required to undergo a procedure known as an endarterectomy to get rid of plaque.
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