Cardiovascular Diseases
Arteriosclerosis (Atherosclerosis)

​Summary: 

Arteriosclerosis (also known as atherosclerosis) refers to the buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances in the arteries, which can cause narrowing of blood flow.
Arteriosclerosis often leads to serious heart problems; it can also affect arteries anywhere in your body.
The risk of arteriosclerosis can be mitigated by managing some factors, e.g. family history, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), smoking, and foods rich in saturated fats.
Early diagnosis and treatment can stop arteriosclerosis from worsening.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential for the treatment and prevention of arteriosclerosis.

Overview: 
Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to your heart and other parts of your body. The term arteriosclerosis refers to the buildup of oxidized fatty substances and plaque on the arterial walls, restricting blood flow to the body’s organs.  Arteriosclerosis can affect arteries anywhere in the body, including the heart, brain, arms, legs, pelvis, and kidneys. Depending on which arteries are blocked, arteriosclerosis can lead to several diseases, such as: 
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack
  • Carotid artery disease
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
It can also lead to serious problems or even death.

Cause:
Arteriosclerosis is caused by the buildup of fats, cholesterol, and other substances in the arteries. However, it is still unknown exactly how it begins or what causes it. Arteriosclerosis is a slow, progressive vascular disease that may start as early as childhood and then progress more rapidly with age.

Risk factors:
  • Aging
  • Medical history
  • High blood cholesterol (hypercholesteremia) 
  • Lack of physical activity 
  • Unhealthy diet 
  • Insulin resistance
  • Hypertension 
  • Diabetes 
  • Overweight and obesity 
  • Smoking 

Symptoms: 
Usually, patients with arteriosclerosis do not show any symptoms until an artery is so narrowed or blocked, hence restricting or blocking the flow of blood to the body’s organs. Symptoms of arteriosclerosis depend on which arteries are affected. For example: 
  • Arteriosclerosis in the heart arteries: The symptoms may include chest pain or pressure (angina).
  • Arteriosclerosis in the brain arteries: The symptoms may include sudden numbness or weakness in the arms or legs, difficulty speaking or slurred speech, temporary loss of vision in one eye, or drooping muscles in the face. These symptoms signal a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which, if left untreated, may progress to a stroke.
  • Arteriosclerosis in the arteries of the arms and legs (peripheral artery disease): The symptoms may include leg pain when walking.
  • Arteriosclerosis in the kidney arteries: It can lead to high blood pressure or kidney failure.

When to see a doctor? 
  • If you have a family history of any type of arteriosclerosis; 
  • If you experience early symptoms of inadequate blood flow to certain areas of the body (e.g. chest pain, leg pain, or numbness);
  • If you suffer shortness of breath during routine day-to-day activities.

Complications:
  • Coronary artery disease, which can cause chest pain, a heart attack, or heart failure;
  • Carotid artery disease, which can cause a TIA or a stroke;
  • Peripheral artery disease, which can cause tissue damage (gangrene); 
  • Aneurysms, which can occur anywhere in your body; 
  • Chronic kidney disease. 

Diagnosis:
Early diagnosis and treatment can stop arteriosclerosis from worsening, and prevent the incidence of a heart attack, a stroke, or another medical emergency. Arteriosclerosis can be diagnosed through: 
  • Medical history
  • Family history
  • Laboratory tests: blood tests
  • Other tests, including: ultrasound, electrocardiogram (ECG), CT scan, and MRI scan.

Treatment:
Arteriosclerosis can basically be treated by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes, medication or surgical procedures may be prescribed as well.

Prevention:
You may be able to prevent or delay the progression of arteriosclerosis and its related diseases by making some lifestyle changes and getting regular care, which can allow you to avoid diseases and live a long healthy life. Such lifestyle changes include: 
  • Adopting heart-healthy eating habits and avoiding foods that are high in sodium, added sugar, solid fats, and refined grains; 
  • Engaging in physical activity;
  • Avoiding smoking; 
  • Managing your weight; 
  • People in the following age groups are recommended to undergo lab tests: 
    • For men: 35 years or older, and, in case there are any risk factors, 20-35 years old.
    • For women: 45 years or older, and, in case there are any risk factors, 20-45 years old.

Clinical Education General Department
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Last Update 20 July 2020 03:24 AM
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