Atherosclerosis is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries.
It is caused by the slow buildup of plaque on the inside of walls
of the arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich
blood from the heart to other parts of the body.

Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances
found in the blood. As it grows, the buildup of plaque narrows the
inside of the artery and, in time, may restrict blood flow. There
are two types of plaque:

* Hard and stable
* Soft and unstable

Hard plaque causes artery walls to thicken and harden. Soft plaque
is more likely to break apart from the walls and enter the
bloodstream. This can cause a blood clot that can partially or
totally block the flow of blood in the artery. When this happens,
the organ supplied by the blocked artery starves for blood and
oxygen. The organ’s cells may either die or suffer severe damage.
Atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive disease that may start
in childhood.

A serious threat

Atherosclerosis is responsible for more deaths in the U.S. than
any other condition. Atherosclerotic heart disease, involving the
coronary arteries (coronary heart disease), is the most common
cause of death, accounting for one-third of all deaths.
Atherosclerotic interference with blood supply to the brain
(stroke) is the third most common cause of death after cancer.

It also causes a great deal of serious illness by
reducing the flow of blood in other major arteries, such as to
the kidneys, legs, and intestines.

What Causes Hardening Of The Arteries?

Why does atherosclerosis occur in the coronary arteries of some
people but not others? An interplay of many factors (listed below)
are involved

1. Blood vessels lose a certain amount of elasticity with aging.
2. A build up of fatty deposits (plaque) occurs in the blood vessel lining.
3. Loss of vessel elasticity is termed arteriosclerosis, while fatty deposit
build-up is termed atherosclerosis.
4. Cigarette smoking is a risk factor.
5. High blood pressure is thought to be a causative factor.
6. Diabetes is thought to be a causative factor.
7. Obesity is thought to be a causative factor.
8. Sedentarism is a very important factor.
9. Stress.

Symptoms of Atherosclerosis

Unfortunately, atherosclerosis produces no symptoms until the
damage to the arteries is severe enough to restrict blood flow.

Restriction of blood flow to the heart muscle due to atherosclerosis
can cause angina pectoris or a myocardial infarction (a heart attack).

Restriction of blood flow to the muscles of the legs causes
intermittent claudication (pains in the legs brought about by
walking and relieved by rest).

Narrowing of the arteries supplying blood to the brain may cause
transient ischemic attacks (symptoms and signs of a stroke lasting
less than 24 hours) and episodes of dizziness, or ultimately, to
a stroke itself.

Prevention and Treatment

To help prevent atherosclerosis, a person needs to be aware of the
risk factors that can be modified—for example, smoking, high blood
cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, obesity, and physical
inactivity. So depending on a person’s risk factors, prevention may
consist of quitting smoking, lowering cholesterol levels, lowering blood
pressure , losing weight, and beginning an exercise program.

When atherosclerosis becomes severe enough to cause complications,
the complications themselves must be treated. Complications include
angina, heart attack, abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, kidney
failure, stroke, and leg cramps (intermittent claudication).

No related content found.