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Cardiology

Atherosclerosis: What is it?

What are the symptoms, and how do I prevent it? The main treatment for Atherosclerosis is lifestyle changes

Atherosclerosis: What is it?

Atherosclerosis is a condition that happens when the arteries, which are the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the heart and other parts of the body, narrow and harden because of the buildup of plaque (fat, cholesterol, and other substances) in the artery walls. This accumulation of plaque can put blood flow to organs and tissues at risk as the arteries become blocked.


Atherosclerosis is usually considered a heart problem. However, there is a possibility that it may affect any artery in the body. The type of artery affected and where the plaque develops varies from person to person.


Causes and Risk Factors of Atherosclerosis


  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol

  • High triglycerides

  • Obesity

  • Diabetes or insulin resistance

  • Smoking

  • Inflammations caused by Arthritis and Lupus

  • High alcohol consumption

  • Staying under a lot of stress 

  • Sedentary lifestyle

  • A poor diet (not eating fruits and vegetables and a high intake of trans fats)


Symptoms of Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a slow, gradual disease in which symptoms vary greatly depending on which arteries are affected by narrowing, hardening, or blockage.


For example, some symptoms related to the arteries of the heart are

  • Difficulty in breathing

  • Chest pain or pressure (angina)

  • Arrhythmia (unusual heartbeat)


Some symptoms of the arteries that carry blood to the kidneys are

  • Kidney failure

  • High blood pressure


Some symptoms related to the arteries that carry blood to the brain are

  • Drooping facial muscles

  • Paralysis

  • Constant and severe headaches

  • Difficulty speaking 

  • Vision problems or temporary loss of vision in one eye


Some symptoms related to the arteries in the arms and legs are

  • Numbness

  • Pain in the leg when walking (claudication)


Prevention


Atherosclerosis can be prevented, it is treatable, and lifestyle changes are the key.


  • Quitting smoking

  • Improving diet and healthy food consumption

  • Exercise regularly (at least half an hour per day, five days a week)

  • If you are overweight or obese, lose weight

  • Moderate alcohol consumption 


When do I need to see a doctor for Atherosclerosis?

In most cases, the noticeable symptoms of Atherosclerosis are present until an artery is already blocked, so visit your Cardiologist regularly for a Check-Up.


When consulting your Cardiologist, try to keep a record of your pain with a detailed description of the symptoms, duration, and what you think triggered them. Also, mention any medications you are taking.



If you think you have Atherosclerosis because you recognize one or more of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. Early diagnosis prevents many medical emergencies.

 

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