Atherosclerosis : causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Atherosclerosis : causes, symptoms, diagnosis

Atherosclerosis is a frequent aging-related illness. What causes this to happen? This occurs when fat, cholesterol, and other chemicals build up in the walls of the arteries, obstructing blood flow into the body.

This is due to plaque formation, which is made up of cholesterol, calcium, fat, and other components that harden with time.

What is the definition of atherosclerosis?

The narrowing, hardness, and loss of flexibility of artery walls caused by plaque formation is known as atherosclerosis. Arteries are the long, thin blood arteries that run throughout the body and transport oxygen and nutrients from the heart to the rest of the body.

Fats, cholesterol, and calcium build up in our arteries as we age, forming plaque. Plaque builds up in arteries, making it difficult for blood to flow freely through them. Any drink in our body, including our heart, legs, and kidneys, can get clogged.

It can cause a lack of blood and oxygen in your body’s numerous tissues. Sometimes, pieces of plaque in arteries break off and cause a blood clot. Atherosclerosis, if left untreated, can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure.

This is a frequent issue that is exacerbated with age. This illness may be avoided, and there are several effective treatment alternatives.

Atherosclerosis types

Atherosclerosis is one of the most prevalent and critical types of arteriosclerosis because it can result in a dangerous blood clot, which can lead to a heart attack, stroke, heart failure, or peripheral blood vessel disease. Arteriosclerosis is divided into three categories.

1. Atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis is a kind of arteriosclerosis that doesn’t usually cause symptoms until the vessel’s luminal width has shrunk by 70% to 80%. This occlusion of the lumen frequently causes chest discomfort or Angina pectoris, which is brought on by physical activity.

When a person is at rest, his or her arteries may have adequate room for blood to move, but when he or she works hard, the regulation of blood increases, causing the heart to pump more blood, which the clogged arteries are unable to handle, resulting in poor oxygenation and chest discomfort.

2. Monckeberg medial calcific sclerosis: The third kind of arteriosclerosis, Monckeberg medial calcific sclerosis is characterized by calcium deposition in muscle arteries in adults over the age of 50.

While these calcifications may be visible or felt using imaging modalities such as X-ray, they do not reduce the size or dimensions of the artery lumen. This isn’t a clinically serious condition, and it doesn’t usually result in events like heart attacks.

3. Arteriolosclerosis: Tiny arteries and arterioles, which are very small arteries, are affected by arteriolosclerosis. It involves the hardness of the vessel’s walls, which narrows the lumen. The process of arteriolosclerosis can produce ischemia or inadequate blood supply to organs supplied by the blocked arteries, similar to atherosclerosis inside the bigger vessels.

Arteriolosclerosis is most common in those with diabetes or high blood pressure, but it’s also a natural aspect of becoming older.

What are the symptoms of atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is a prevalent ageing disease that mostly affects older individuals, however it is not necessary for all persons over the age of 65 to have atherosclerosis. It might also begin to develop during adolescence. They don’t display symptoms until a little piece of plaque ruptures or blood flow is disrupted.

The signs and symptoms of atherosclerosis vary depending on which arteries are impacted.

Atherosclerosis of the carotid arteries

The carotid arteries are responsible for supplying blood to the brain. Atherosclerosis can reduce blood flow, resulting in a stroke.
Among the signs and symptoms are:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Weakness
  • a severe headache
  • Numbness in the face
  • Paralysis has also been observed on occasion.

Atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries


Coronary arteries are responsible for supplying blood to the heart. When the heart’s function is interrupted, it stops working, which can lead to angina and heart attacks.
Among the signs and symptoms are:

  • Pain in the chest
  • Vomiting sensation
  • Coughing
  • Faintness
  • Anxiety at an all-time high

Arteries of the kidneys


Renal arteries are responsible for supplying blood to the kidneys. Chronic kidney disease can occur if the blood supply to the kidneys is cut off.

Some of the symptoms that a person with chronic kidney disease may encounter include:

  • Inflammation of the hands and feet
  • Appetite loss.
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Arteries of the periphery

Peripheral arteries


Peripheral arteries are responsible for supplying blood to the arms, legs, and pelvis. If a person’s blood flow is restricted, he or she may experience a stroke or heart attack.

Among the signs and symptoms are:

  • Numbness in the face
  • Leg aches and pains
  • Death of a tissue

It’s possible that gangrene will develop.
If a person has any of these symptoms as a result of a blockage in one of the arteries, they should seek medical help right once.

Atherosclerosis Causes


Atherosclerosis is a slowly progressing illness that begins in infancy or adolescence and manifests itself as symptoms as people become older. The actual aetiology of atherosclerosis has yet to be discovered. The inner layer of an artery is initially damaged by atherosclerosis. Damage can be produced by a variety of factors, including:

  • Blood pressure that is too high
  • Triglycerides are a form of fat or lipid found in the blood.
  • Cholesterol levels are high.
  • It might be caused by tobacco and smoking.
  • Obesity, diabetes, or insulin resistance
  • Diseases include arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel illness induce inflammation.

When the inner lining of an artery is damaged, blood cells and other fluid constituents may clump together at the injury site, forming a hard inner lining.

Similarly, fatty deposits called plaque, which are made up of cholesterol and other cellular debris, build up and harden at the site over time, restricting your arteries. Organs and tissues related to clogged arteries are now deprived of sufficient blood to operate correctly.

During this period, some bits of the fatty deposits may break off and enter your bloodstream. Furthermore, the plaque’s smooth lining may be broken, allowing cholesterol and other chemicals to enter your circulation directly.

This might result in a blood clot, which could block arteries and blood flow to a certain portion of your body; if the blood supply is inadequate, the heart could suffer a heart attack. That blood clot might potentially spread to other regions of your body, obstructing blood flow to another organ.

Factors at Risk

Atherosclerosis causes the arteries to narrow and stiffen over time. Aside from age, there are a number of additional variables that might raise your chance of developing atherosclerosis, including:

  • Blood pressure that is too high
  • Cholesterol levels are high.
  • Bodyweight
  • CRP levels that are high are a sign of inflammation.
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Apnea (sleep deprivation)
  • Tobacco usage, including smoking and chewing
  • A family history of heart disease at a young age
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Unhealthy eating habits

diagnosed atherosclerosis

what is the diagnosis of atherosclerosis ?

A physical exam is required for the diagnosis of atherosclerosis, during which the doctor will ask you a few questions about your family history and current health. You should consult a specialist who specializes in cardiac problems (cardiologist).

Depending on the results of your physical exam, one or more tests, such as:

Blood Tests: Your doctor will advise you on the blood tests that will be performed to check your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Atherosclerosis is caused by high blood sugar and cholesterol levels. A CRP test (c-reactive protein test) might potentially be used to look for a protein connected to artery inflammation.

ECG (Electrocardiogram) or EKG:This is used to record the electrical signals in your heart.

The movement of blood flow during the heartbeatas well as through the arteries, may be recorded using sound waves.

If the signs and symptoms occur more frequently during activity, the doctor may prescribe an exercise stress test. You must walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike while attached to an ECG during the test. Because exercise causes your heart to beat faster and harder than it does during most everyday activities, an exercise check might identify cardiac abnormalities that would otherwise go unnoticed. If you can’t exercise, you’ll be given a drug that simulates the effects of exercise on your heart.

A specific ultrasound equipment (Doppler ultrasonography) is used to monitor blood pressure at several places along your arm or leg during this examination. These measures can assist evaluate the severity of any blockages in your arteries, as well as the rate at which blood flows through them.

Ankle-brachial index (ABI): A doctor compares the blood pressure in the ankle to the blood pressure in the arm in an ABI test. A discrepancy might be a symptom of peripheral vascular disease, which is often caused by atherosclerosis. This test can determine if a person’s arteries in the legs and feet have atherosclerosis.

Cardiac catheterization and angiogram: A doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube called a catheter into a blood artery and into your heart during this treatment. The dye is injected into the catheter. Because the dye fills your arteries, they will show up on an X-ray, exposing blocked spots. Only if your coronary arteries are constricted or clogged can the test reveal.

Coronary calcium scan: This is essentially a heart scan in which a CT scan (computerized tomography) is used to obtain a detailed image of the heart’s anatomy. Calcium deposits in the arterial walls can be detected with this technique. The outcome will be assigned a score, with the higher the score, the greater the risk of heart disease.

Other imaging tests: Other imaging tests for arteriosclerosis diagnosis include magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) and positron emission tomography (PET) to investigate your arteries.

Atherosclerosis prevention

The following are some ways to avoid atherosclerosis:

Quit Smoking: We’ve all heard that smoking is bad for your health. However, it is true that quitting smoking is the first step in lowering your risk of atherosclerosis and other heart disease risk factors. Smoking is a leading cause of sickness and mortality in the United States. Toxic substances in cigarette smoke enter your bloodstream and cause injury to your body.
These substances can cause atherosclerosis in a variety of ways, including:

  • Coagulation of the blood
  • Arterial inflammation

Eats Well: Eating well is an important aspect of living a healthy lifestyle. It also raises the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease in general. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, fish, and poultry, low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, and legumes are all good sources of vitamins, protein, iron, and calcium (dried beans and peas).
This nutritious food has the following ingredients:

  • Vegetables: Vegetables are a good choice since they are high in iron, protein, and other nutrients. Green vegetables are high in iron and calcium and should be part of practically everyone’s diet.
  • Fruits: Fruits are abundant in water, which is very important for our bodies. Sugary fruits, as well as frozen fruits with sugar added to them, should be avoided.

Grains are a high-fiber, high-protein food that includes:

  • Wraps with whole-grain bread
  • Cereals high in fiber
  • Pasta made with whole grains
  • Oatmeal
  • rice (brown)
  • Barley
  • Quinoa

Dairy products are high in vitamins, minerals, calcium, proteins, and other nutrients. Low-fat milk, cheese, yoghurt, and other dairy products are included.

Oils and fats: Fats are essential components of a balanced diet. Healthy fats may be found in the following foods:

  • Nut butters and nuts
  • Seeds are a type of plant that grows from (sunflower, pumpkin, flax, sesame)
  • Avocados
  • Olive, canola, sesame, sunflower, corn, and soybean oils are some of the most popular.

Daily exercise is just as vital as eating a nutritious meal. Exercise is beneficial to your heart and body. Physical exercise can help your muscles stretch and utilize oxygen more efficiently, as well as enhance blood circulation by encouraging the creation of new blood vessels. It can also help to control excessive blood pressure, which is a major cause of atherosclerosis. 30 minutes of exercise is plenty to keep you active throughout the day.
Aerobic exercise boosts your heart and breathing rate and is a fantastic choice for physical activity. The following activities are included in the exercise:

  • Walking
  • Jogging or running
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Skiing on a cross-country course
  • zumba

Keep an eye on the numbers: While you may not be able to prevent it, you can take frequent body measurements to correlate with your risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease, such as:

  • Blood pressure is a measurement of how high or low
  • cholesterol level in the blood
  • Bodyweight
  • Levels of blood sugar

Treatment Options for Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis has a number of side effects, including:

  • Chronic kidney disease is a condition that affects the kidneys
  • Coronary artery disease or carotid artery disease
  • Angina pectoris
  • Insufficiency of the heart
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition that affects the arteries
  • Stroke
  • Aneurysms
  • Angina
  • Heart beats that are unusual

The following are some of the treatments for atherosclerosis:

Medications: Drugs for high cholesterol and high blood pressure can help to slow down the progression of arteriosclerosis. They may also lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Lifestyle Changes: You can decrease the progression of arteriosclerosis by taking good care and closely monitoring the risk factors. Healthy eating habits, frequent exercise, and no smoking are just a few examples of lifestyle modifications. They will not be able to eliminate the obstruction, but they will be able to reduce the danger. Other approaches for persons who are experiencing severe symptoms include
Angiography and stenting: To access damaged arteries, a doctor inserts a tiny tube into an artery in your leg or arm. On a live X-ray screen, blockages will be evident. This treatment uses angioplasty and stenting to unblock a blocked artery. While stenting can assist with symptoms, it does not prevent heart attacks or strokes.

Bypass surgery: In this procedure, your doctor removes a healthy blood artery from your leg or chest and utilizes it to bypass the blockage.

Endarterectomy: An endarterectomy is a procedure in which a doctor enters the arteries and removes plaque to restore blood flow.

Fibrinolytic therapy: A doctor injects a medication into your artery to break a blood clot that is obstructing it.

Tags: heart health

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