Hardening of the Arteries: Atherosclerosis
Your arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart and deliver it to your bodily tissues. The lining of your arteries, called the endothelium, can accumulate a buildup of cholesterol that develops into hardened plaques, resulting in a condition known as atherosclerosis. This medical condition causes a narrowing of these arteries that can slow down the flow of blood from the heart, leading to cardiovascular disease.
What Causes Atherosclerosis?
When the endothelium lining of the arteries becomes damaged with plaque formation, atherosclerosis develops. The damage can be caused by high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, or having high cholesterol levels. The formation of hardened plaques create a blockage over time, slowing blood flow that puts your heart at risk, in addition to other possible health problems, such as stroke.
Symptoms of Atherosclerosis
You may not note any symptoms of this disease until you are middle-aged or older. An undiagnosed blockage may break apart suddenly and create a blood clot inside an artery. These sudden ruptures can eventually cause a stroke or a heart attack to occur.
If some plaque stays in the artery wall, it may never block your blood flow, and symptoms will not appear. In other cases, as the blood flow becomes more and more blocked off, you may experience pain. The plaque might grow very slowly, eventually causing blockages, causing pain in the chest or legs upon exertion.
Atherosclerosis plaques can cause three major types of cardiovascular disease:
- Coronary artery disease that can cause chest pain or sudden plaque rupture
- Cerebrovascular disease that can cause strokes in the brain’s arteries or transient ischemic attacks, warning signs of stroke
- Peripheral artery disease which is a narrowing of the arteries in the legs, making it difficult to walk
Luckily, there are treatments and lifestyle changes Atlanta patients can make to avoid or recover from atherosclerosis. Eliminating or greatly reducing the risk factors for atherosclerosis can help prevent resulting heart attacks from the disease. This means:
- Not smoking
- Having low cholesterol levels
- Normal blood pressure readings
- Not becoming obese
- Reducing stress
- Exercising regularly
Atherosclerosis can be diagnosed through a number of diagnostic tests, including bloodworm, an EKG, chest X-ray, and other studies. If you are diagnosed with atherosclerosis, Dr. Amish Tilara, M.D. at Atlanta Vascular and Vein Center can advise you as to the medications and lifestyle changes that can help, such as drugs for high cholesterol or high blood pressure and eating a healthy diet, exercising, and giving up smoking.
Your Atlanta vascular specialist, however, may need to treat atherosclerosis perform a corrective and minimally invasive endovascular treatment such as an angioplasty, stent placement, or atherectomy to correct your blood flow.
Dr. Amish Tilara, M.D. is located in Lawrenceville, GA, at the Atlanta Vascular and Vein Center. His office also serves the surrounding Atlanta areas such as Duluth, Dacula, Buford, Grayson, Lilburn, Norcross, Snellville, and Suwanee.
This article is not meant to take the place of professional medical advice. Be sure to make an appointment with Dr. Amish Tilara, M.D. or a vascular physician in your area if you have a concern.
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