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.
Plaques from atherosclerosis can behave in different ways:
- They can stay in the artery wall. There, the plaque grows to a certain size and stops. Since this plaque doesn't block blood flow, it may never cause symptoms
- Plaque can grow in a slow, controlled way into the path of blood flow. Eventually, it causes significant blockages. Pain in the chest or legs when you exert yourself is the usual symptom.
- The worst happens when plaques suddenly rupture, allowing blood to clot inside an artery. In the brain, this causes a stroke in the heart, a heart attack.
Atherosclerosis can be caused without any reason or cause. Among 300 apparently healthy people :
- 52% had some atherosclerosis.
- It was present in 85% of those older than 50.
- 17% of teenagers had it.
Symptoms of atherosclerosis:
Symptoms can be same or different to heart attack, which can be mistreated, so having following symptoms must be diagnosed as fast as possible:
Causes of atherosclerosis:
Atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive disease that may start in childhood. In some people, it progresses rapidly in their 30s. In others, it doesn't become dangerous until they reach their 50s or 60s. Some hardening of the arteries is normal as you age.
Cause of atherosclerosis is still not known. It is believed that plaque begins when an artery's inner lining (called the endothelium) becomes damaged. Three possible causes of damage are:
Smoking has a big role in the growth of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries, aorta and arteries in the legs. It makes fatty deposits more likely to form and to grow bigger and faster.
Risk factors of atherosclerosis:
Atherosclerosis is preventable. Risk factors for this may include:
Treatments of atherosclerosis:
There may be two types of treatments depending on the severity of atherosclerosis, it may include:
- Medication- It can help prevent atherosclerosis from worsening. Medications may include:
- Cholesterol-lowering medications, including statins and fibric acid derivatives
- Antiplatelet drugs and anticoagulants, such as aspirin, to prevent blood from clotting and clogging your arteries
- Beta blockers or calcium channel blockers to lower your blood pressure
- Diuretics, or water pills, to help lower your blood pressure
- Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which help prevent narrowing of your arteries
- Surgery-In some cases, surgery may be necessary if symptoms are especially severe, or if muscle or skin tissue are endangered. Possible surgeries for treating atherosclerosis include:
- Bypass surgery-Which involves using a vessel from somewhere else in the patient's body or a synthetic tube to divert blood around the blocked or narrowed artery
- Thrombolytic therapy-Which involves dissolving a blood clot by injecting a drug into the affected artery
- Angioplasty-Which involves using a thin, flexible tube called a catheter and a balloon to expand the artery, sometimes inserting a stent to leave the artery open
- Endarterectomy-Which involves surgically removing fatty deposits from the artery
- Atherectomy-Which involves removing plaque from your arteries by using a catheter with sharp blade at one end
Diagnosis of atherosclerosis:
A physical test is performed if anybody show symptoms of artherosclerosis. It will check for:
- a weakened pulse
- an aneurysm, which is an abnormal bulging or widening of an artery due to weakness of the arterial wall
- slow wound healing, which indicates a restricted blood flow
Certain imaging test and blood test can be done to confirm atherosclerosis, which may include:
- a blood test to check your cholesterol levels
- a Doppler ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create a picture of the artery that shows if there's a blockage
- ankle-brachial index test, which looks for a blockage in arms or legs by comparing the blood pressure in each limb
- magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) or computed tomography angiography (CTA) to create pictures of the large arteries in our body
- cardiac angiogram, which requires an injection of a radioactive dye that can be seen on X-rays to create a picture of the arteries in our heart
- an electrocardiogram (EKG), which measures the electrical activity in your heart to look for any areas of decreased blood flow
- a stress test, or exercise tolerance test, which monitors the heart rate and blood pressure while anyone exercise on a treadmill or stationary bicycle
Complications from atherosclerosis:
Certain disease can occur from atherosclerosis, which may include:
- Coronary artery disease-Coronary artery disease occurs when the coronary arteries of our heart become hard. The coronary arteries are blood vessels that provide our heart's muscle tissue with oxygen and blood. Plaque prevents blood flow to the heart.
- Carotid artery disease-The carotid arteries are found in our neck and supply blood to your brain. These arteries may be compromised if plaque builds up in their walls. The lack of circulation may reduce how much blood and oxygen reaches your brain's tissue and cells.
- Peripheral artery disease-Our legs, arms, and lower body depend on your arteries to supply blood and oxygen to their tissues. Hardened arteries can cause circulation problems in these areas of the body.
- Kidney disease-The renal arteries supply blood to our kidneys. Kidneys filter waste products and extra water from your blood. Atherosclerosis of these arteries may lead to kidney failure.
Atherosclerosis may be deadly is not treated, or diagnosed in right time. Correct diagnosis can decrease further risk.