Atherosclerosis is a known condition where the blood vessels are narrowed due to constant and excessive deposition of cholesterol and fats. This causes the walls of the blood vessels to thicken, thus causing the lumen of the vessels where the blood flows to increase its size gradually. This condition often affects the arterial blood vessels followed by chronic inflammation. This will then result to the accumulation of macrophages at the deposition site. These macrophages are white blood cells that try to eliminate the fatty deposits and results to furring or hardening of the arteries.
As the arterial walls lack elasticity along with the deposition of fats, the amount of blood that reaches the organs are reduced, thus leading to various health complications, disorders and diseases. Atherosclerosis is considered as a “silent killer”. That means atherosclerosis symptoms are unnoticed unless it has reached a level of ischemia or decreased blood flow. When this level is reached, systemic symptoms can be noticed and this can affect the normal functioning of certain body organs.
Coronary Atherosclerosis Symptoms
Atherosclerosis is known as one of the most common factors that causes various heart problems. One of this is coronary atherosclerosis. This condition comes with various symptoms like severe chest pain and tightness also known as angina. The kind of pain is like a heart attack and if left untreated, this may lead to myocardial infarction due to the reduced amount of blood supply to the muscles of the heart, thus resulting to heart attack. In case the condition is chronic the heart continuously receives reduced amount of blood and because of the need to compensate, it results to heart malfunctions. This is because the heart pushes itself to cope with decreased blood supply, thus leading to a condition called ischemic cardiomyopathy where a person may experience arrhythmias.
Carotid Atherosclerosis Symptoms
In case the atherosclerosis condition affects the arteries that supplies blood to the brain or it involves the arteries in the brain, the consequences can be fatal. The common symptoms of carotid atherosclerosis are the same as in stroke. Stroke symptoms often include sudden throbbing headache, mental clouding, inability to move the limbs, loss of balance and dizziness. In case of intracranial atherosclerosis, the symptoms may affect only half of the portion of the body. You may experience numbness in the limbs or sudden weakness and trouble seeing and these happen only on one side of your body.
Peripheral Atherosclerosis Symptoms
In case atherosclerosis affects the arteries that are responsible for supplying blood into the body’s extremities, this may result to peripheral artery disease. This condition is often characterized by transient ischemic attack symptoms such as wounds and sores on the arms and legs that do not heal quickly, claudication or weakness and pain in the legs when trying to walk, decreased nail and hair growth particularly on the affected limb and the affected limb may change its color. In case the condition is transient in nature or eventually becomes severe, the affected limbs may turn blue and it may go through gangrenous changes.
The treatment of atherosclerosis is focused on relieving atherosclerosis symptoms and reducing the risk factors in order to stop the buildup of plaque within the arteries. Treatment may include efforts to lower blood clots by forming, bypassing or widening the clogged arteries in order to prevent recurrence of the condition in the future. Lifestyle changes are also necessary in order to alleviate the symptoms of the condition and to eliminate plaque buildup within the arteries. Since the condition is often due to high levels of cholesterol, the treatment may include healthy diet, weight management and physical activities in order to reduce the quantity of cholesterol in the body.
This treatment method is often referred to as Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes or TLC. With the TLC diet, 7% of your daily calorie consumption should be obtained from saturated fats found in meat, dairy and poultry products. Less than 35% of your daily calorie consumption, on the other hand, should come from all fats like transfat, saturated fat, polysaturated fat and monosaturated fat. Foods that contain high amount of soluble fiber should also be included in your diet as these are helpful in preventing the digestive system from absorbing cholesterol. Soluble fiber can be obtained from whole grain cereals like oat bran and oatmeal, fruits like bananas, apples, oranges, prunes and pears and from vegetables like lentils, legumes and various types of beans such as black-eyed beans, lima beans and chickpeas.
A diet that contains lots of fruits and vegetables can increase cholesterol-lowering compounds in the body. Adding fish to your diet is also helpful as it contains high amount of omega-3 acids that can protect the body against inflammation and blood clots and reduce the risk of having heart attacks. You also have to make sure that you limit your consumption of sodium. Your meals should contain low amount of sodium and salt or no salt at all. Aside from following a healthy diet, there are some helpful medications as well including aspirin, anticoagulants, calcium channel blockers, beta blockers, Ezetimibe, bile acid sequestrants, Fibrates, IIb or IIIa receptor inhibitors, Nitrates, Niacin, Statins, Platelet inhibitors, Thrombolytic and CoA Reductase.