What is Atherosclerosis?

What is Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is the condition where fatty materials start to build up in the arterial walls. This buildup may lead to the narrowing and hardening of the arteries. This condition is known to be a silent and progressive disease that can block the arteries overtime. This blockage, on the other hand, is what causes peripheral vascular disease and heart attacks. The atheromatous plaque consists of three components:

  • The atheroma, which is the soft and yellowish material that is found right in the middle of the plaque

 

  • The underlying cholesterol crystals in the area
  • The calcification layer

Atherosclerosis begins when smoking, high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol cause damage to the endothelial layer of the blood vessels. This condition may occur insidiously without being noticed. The plaque of cholesterol gets larger overtime and this can eventually reduce the amount of blood flowing to the arteries, thus causing angina or chest pain and vascular claudication or pain in the legs. Another very common scenario is the rupture of the soft atheromatous plaque that may result to thrombus or blood clot that can rapidly block the affected blood vessel. This can be fatal and may lead to the death of the tissues.

What are the Risk Factors?

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Hypercholesterolemia
  • Smoking
  • Aging
  • History of coronary artery disease
  • Excessive alcohol intake

What are the Symptoms of this Condition?

  •  Coronary artery disease including heart attacks, angina and cardiac death
  • Stroke or cerebrovascular disease
  • Mesenteric artery ischemia
  • Kidney disease
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Thoracic and abdominal artery aneurysms

Treatment and Management of Atherosclerosis

  • Lifestyle Changes: regular aerobic exercises, increased consumption of foods rich in omega-3, reduced consumption of foods high in cholesterol and fat, restriction on the consumption of salt, reduced weight, quit smoking and drinking.
  • Medications: to lower the levels of cholesterol, manage blood pressure and prevent blood clot
  • Surgical Procedures: balloon angioplasty, stenting and vascular bypass surgery
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