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Atherosclerosis

Definition

Atherosclerosis is a serious condition where the walls of the arteries are accumulated with fat materials. The arteries get blocked with these fatty materials as they become thick and hard, forming calcium deposits with time.


Cause of Atherosclerosis

Large and medium arteries are specifically affected by atherosclerosis. When substances like fats and cholesterol and other such substances called plaques accumulates in the walls of arteirs and hardens and thickens with time lead to the atherosclerosis condition.

Risks associated with atherosclerosis:

The plaques formation in the arteries narrows the way of arteries obstructing the normal blood flow. Because of this the blood flow to the arteries can be slowed down thus resulting into problem like chest pain, heart attack, breathless and lead to other such symptoms.

There is danger of breakage of these plaques that can the small broken parts can move to the small blood vessels from affected arteries which can block them and result in damaging the tissue or to death. This has been the common reason for strokes and heart attacks.

Other risks factors that are involved with atherosclerosis are as follows:

  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Increasing age
  • Smoking
  • Family history of heart diseases
  • Heavy use of alcohol
  • High level of blood cholesterol
  • High-fat diet
There are chances that the other organs like intestines, heart, brain, kidneys and limbs get affected by atherosclerosis.

Symptoms

Unless the plaque grows and affects the normal blood flow in the patient’s body, symptoms cannot be diagnosed. However the person undergoing atherosclerosis condition may witness the following conditions as symptoms:

  • • Hypertension
  • • Stroke – cerebrovascular disease
  • • Coronary artery disease
  • • Thoracic aortic aneurysm
  • • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • • Renal artery stenosis
  • • Kidney disease
  • • Peripheral artery disease
  • • Mesenteric artery ischemia

Exams and Tests

Physical examination is carried out and a health care provider uses stethoscope to listen to the lungs and hearts. The person suffering from atherosclerosis can produce blowing or whooshing sound over an artery.

Tests to identify the complications and atherosclerosis condition are as follows:

  • Pulmonary angiography
  • Doppler study
  • Aortic arteriography
  • Extremity arteriography
  • Brachial/ Ankle index
  • Arteriography
  • Intravascular ultrasound
  • Coronary artery angiography)
  • Renal arteriography
  • Cardiac stress testing
  • Mesenteric arteriography
  • CT scan
  • Magnetic resonance arteriography

Treatment

In order to prevent the condition of atherosclerosis and the complications arising from it following are the changes you need to make in your lifestyle.

  • Avoid fat foods and include low cholesterol food. Vegetables and fruits can lead to good changes in your health. Include fish twice a week in your diet (except fried food).
  • Drink not more than one or two alcoholic drinks (in a day).
  • People having overweight follow exercising regularly for 60-90minutes a day and other people for 30minutes.
  • Regular blood pressure check-up (between a year and two).

    Special suggestions depending on blood pressure and age:

  • Blood pressure should be between 140/90mmHg.
  • People with problems like heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, the blood pressures are often less than 130/80mm/Hg.
  • Get your cholesterol checked.

People with high cholesterol:
  • Get your cholesterol checked every 5years if you are an adult and if you have a family history of cholesterol problems than you should check it more often.
  • Bad cholesterol should be below 130-160mg/dL.
  • People with problems of heart disease, diabetes or hardening of arteries should have LDL i.e. bad cholesterol less than 100mg/dL.


  • To cure the problem of atherosclerosis number of surgeries is performed, amongst which some are as follows:
  • Angioplasty and stent placement - peripheral arteries
  • Angioplasty and stent - heart - discharge
  • Coronary artery bypass surgery
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