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Atherosclerosis

Also called: Arteriosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries. Plaque is a sticky substance made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Over time, plaque hardens and narrows your arteries. That limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your body.

Atherosclerosis can lead to serious problems, including

  • Coronary artery disease. These arteries supply blood to your heart. When they are blocked, you can suffer angina or a heart attack.
  • Carotid artery disease. These arteries supply blood to your brain. When they are blocked you can suffer a stroke.
  • Peripheral arterial disease. These arteries are in your arms, legs and pelvis. When they are blocked, you can suffer from numbness, pain and sometimes infections.

Atherosclerosis usually doesn't cause symptoms until it severely narrows or totally blocks an artery. Many people don't know they have it until they have a medical emergency.

A physical exam, imaging, and other diagnostic tests can tell if you have it. Medicines can slow the progress of plaque buildup. Your doctor may also recommend procedures such as angioplasty to open the arteries, or surgery on the coronary or carotid arteries. Lifestyle changes can also help. These include following a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and managing stress.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Symptoms of Atherosclerosis

The following features are indicative of Atherosclerosis:
  • sudden weakness
  • numbness of the face, arms, or legs
  • confusion
  • trouble speaking
  • breathing problems
  • dizziness
  • trouble walking
  • loss of balance or coordination
  • sudden and severe headache
It is possible that Atherosclerosis shows no physical symptoms and still be present in a patient.

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Common Causes of Atherosclerosis

The following are the most common causes of Atherosclerosis:
  • smoking
  • high amount of fats and cholesterol in the blood
  • high blood pressure
  • high amounts of sugar in the blood

Risk Factors for Atherosclerosis

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Atherosclerosis:
  • high levels of C-reactive protein in the blood
  • damage to the arteries
  • high levels of triglycerides in the blood

Prevention of Atherosclerosis

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Atherosclerosis. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • eat heart-healthy eating
  • do regular physical activity
  • quit smoking
  • maintain normal body weight

Occurrence of Atherosclerosis

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Atherosclerosis cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Very common > 10 Million cases

Common Age Group

Atherosclerosis most commonly occurs in the following age group:
  • Aged between 35-50 years

Common Gender

Atherosclerosis can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Atherosclerosis

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Atherosclerosis:
  • Blood tests: To measure the levels of certain cholesterol, sugar, fats, and proteins in the blood
  • Electrocardiogram: To detect and record the heart's electrical activity
  • Chest X ray: To take the pictures of the heart, lungs and blood vessels
  • Ankle/Brachial index: To check the blood flow
  • Echocardiography: To create a moving picture of the heart
  • Computed tomography scan: To analyse the hardening and narrowing of large arteries
  • Stress testing: To analyze how heart work hard and beat fast
  • Angiography: To see whether plaque is blocking the arteries

Doctor for Diagnosis of Atherosclerosis

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Atherosclerosis:
  • Cardiologist
  • Neurologist
  • Nephrologist
  • Vascular specialist

Complications of Atherosclerosis if untreated

Yes, Atherosclerosis causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Atherosclerosis is left untreated:
  • stroke
  • gangrene

Procedures for Treatment of Atherosclerosis

The following procedures are used to treat Atherosclerosis:
  • Vascular bypass surgery: Re-establish the flow around the diseased artery
  • Angioplasty with or without stenting: Reopens the narrowed arteries and improves blood flow
  • Endarterectomy: Removes the fatty deposits

Medicines for Atherosclerosis

Below is the list of medicines used for Atherosclerosis:

Self-care for Atherosclerosis

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Atherosclerosis:
  • Stop smoking
  • Physical activity: Exercise regularly
  • Eat healthy foods: Eat heart-healthy diet based on fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Lose extra pounds: Maintain a healthy weight to reduce the risk factors of atherosclerosis
  • Manage stress: Practice muscle relaxation and deep breathing exercises

Alternative Medicine for Treatment of Atherosclerosis

The following alternate medicine and therapies are known to help in the treatment or management of Atherosclerosis:
  • Yoga or deep breathing: Relax and reduce the stress levels that can cause atherosclerosis
  • Intake of green tea, black tea, cod liver oil, fish oil in the diet: Help to reduce high cholesterol level and high blood pressure
  • Do physical activity: To improve circulation and promote development of new blood vessels

Patient Support for Treatment of Atherosclerosis

The following actions may help Atherosclerosis patients:
  • Cardiac rehabilitation: Join cardiac rehabilitation program that increases the strength and endurance
  • Heart-to-Heart Cardiac Support Group: Helps in overcoming the emotional effects of a heart attack

Time for Treatment of Atherosclerosis

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Atherosclerosis to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • More than 1 year

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Atherosclerosis.
Angioplasty
Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery
Coronary Artery Disease
Heart Attack
Ischemic Stroke
Stroke

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