Atherosclerosis: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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 Atherosclerosis: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Atherosclerosis is a form of arteriosclerosis. The terms “atherosclerosis” and “arteriosclerosis” are sometimes used interchangeably. But, they represent slightly different conditions. It is a fairly common problem associated with aging. This medical condition can be prevented and many successful treatment options exist. For treatment, you must visit some of the best cardiology hospitals in Hyderabad.

What is Atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is a hardening and narrowing of your arteries. It is caused by cholesterol plaques lining the artery over time. It can put blood flow at risk as your arteries become blocked.

It’s the usual cause of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease what together are called cardiovascular disease. Cardiologist in Hyderabad suggests that you can prevent and treat this process.

Types of Atherosclerosis

The types and definitions of arteriosclerosis were described in January of 1954 in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology by S. M. Rabson titled, “Arteriosclerosis: Definitions”. He said that atherosclerosis is defined as arteriosclerosis with atheromatosis.

At present arteriosclerosis or arterial stiffness is classified into three lesions:-

  • Atherosclerosis – Atherosclerosis affects the elastic and large arteries in which there is atheroma formation.
  • Moenckeberg medial calcific sclerosis
  • Arteriolosclerosis

Arteriosclerosis Subtypes

Pathologically there are two subtypes of arteriosclerosis

  • Hyperplasic type
  • Hyaline type

A subclassification of arteriolosclerosis is the fibromuscular intimal thickening. There is typically hyalinosis or deposition of hyaline protein in these lesions as well. This includes the categories like:-

Transplant related arteriopathy or arterial damage

Restenosis lesions that are seen after balloon angioplasty or stenting of the heart’s coronary blood vessels

Nonspecific intimal thickening occurs in temporal arteries (arteries around the forehead and temples) with aging.

Transplant arteriopathy is intimal enlargement without atherosclerotic changes seen in the walls. Transplant arteriopathy affects large and small muscular arteries and veins as well. It commonly causes inflammation in the 1 or more of the 3 layers in the blood vessel walls.

Usually, the intima is affected more than the media or adventitia, but all three layers may be affected. After inflammation there is fibrosis and finally calcification and thrombosis may occur.

Atherosclerosis Symptoms

Atherosclerosis Symptoms

You might not have symptoms until your artery is nearly closed or until you have a heart attack or stroke. Symptoms can also depend on which artery is narrowed or blocked.

Symptoms related to your coronary arteries include:-

  • Arrhythmia, an unusual heartbeat
  • Pain or pressure in your upper body, including your chest, arms, neck, or jaw. This is known as angina.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness or weakness in your arms or legs
  • A hard time speaking or understanding someone who’s talking
  • Drooping facial muscles
  • Paralysis
  • Severe headache
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes

Atherosclerosis Causes

The exact causes of atherosclerosis aren’t known. There’s evidence that it may be caused by damage to the inner lining of your arteries (known as the endothelium), where plaque typically accumulates.

This damage may be caused by the following factors:-

  • Smoking and other tobacco use
  • High levels of fat or cholesterol in your blood
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Elevated blood sugar
  • Inflammation from arthritis, lupus, infection, or other diseases

Atherosclerosis Risk Factors

Risk factors for atherosclerosis include the following health conditions:-

  • High levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
  • Low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Tobacco use
  • Diabetes or prediabetes
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of physical activity
  • An unhealthy diet
  • A family history of heart disease
  • Older age

Atherosclerosis Diagnosis

To diagnose atherosclerosis, your atherosclerosis specialist in Hyderabad will consider your symptoms and medical history, as well as perform a physical exam and possibly order certain tests.

Commonly used tests to help diagnose atherosclerosis include:-

1. Blood Tests

Your doctor may check your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as blood glucose (sugar) if diabetes or prediabetes is known or suspected.

2. Blood Pressure Measurements

Your doctor may take your blood pressure at various points on your arms or legs, which can help measure blood flow and detect blockages. A special ultrasound device (Doppler ultrasound) may be used for this.

3. Coronary Angiogram

This test involves inserting a long, narrow tube (catheter) through an artery and extending it to your heart, then injecting a dye that’s visible on X-ray images to reveal blockages in your coronary arteries.

4. Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

This test measures the electrical activity in your heart, and may reveal a heart rhythm disorder or a prior heart attack.

 Atherosclerosis is a serious health condition that may lead to major problems like heart failure, heart attack, or stroke. But it develops at a different pace in different people.

If your atherosclerosis progresses very slowly over decades and stays mild, you may never develop any symptoms or health problems as a result.

But if your atherosclerosis progresses more quickly and becomes moderate or severe, you may experience disabling complications or premature death.

How quickly your atherosclerosis develops or progresses depend on several risk factors, including many related to your lifestyle.

Atherosclerosis Treatment

Atherosclerosis Treatment

Treatment involves changing your current lifestyle to decrease the amount of fat and cholesterol you consume. You can exercise more to improve the health of your heart and blood vessels.

Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes as the first line of treatment. You may also need additional medical treatments, such as medications or surgery.

Medications

Medications for treating atherosclerosis include:

  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs, including statins
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which may lower blood pressure
  • Beta-blockers, which “rest” the heart
  • Anti platelet drugs such as aspirin to prevent blood from clotting and clogging your arteries

Aspirin can be particularly effective for people with a history of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. An aspirin regimen discussed with your doctor may potentially lower your risk of having another health event if you already have atherosclerosis.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently released updated guidelines on using aspirin for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. These guidelines may be relevant in discussions with your doctor.

If you have no history of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, only use aspirin as a preventive medication if your risk of bleeding is low and your risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is high. Always discuss an aspirin regimen with your doctor first.

Atherosclerosis Surgery

If symptoms are especially severe or if muscle or skin tissue is endangered, surgery may be necessary.

Possible surgeries for treating atherosclerosis include:

  • Bypass surgery, which involves using a vessel from somewhere else in your body or a synthetic tube to divert blood around your blocked or narrowed artery
  • Thrombolytic therapy, which involves dissolving a blood clot by injecting a drug into your affected artery
  • Angioplasty and percutaneous coronary intervention, which involves using a catheter and a balloon to expand your artery, sometimes inserting a stent to keep the artery open
  • Atherectomy, which involves removing plaque from your arteries by using a catheter with a sharp blade at one end
  • Endarterectomy, which involves surgically removing fatty deposits from your artery.

It’s important to take whatever steps you can to reduce your risk of developing atherosclerosis, since complications of the condition can include life-threatening medical emergencies like a stroke or heart attack. If you smoke, quitting is the single most important step you can take to reduce your risk for atherosclerosis and other heart disease risk factors.

Along with your diet, exercise is a key component of a heart-healthy lifestyle. Physical activity can help your muscles use oxygen more effectively, as well as improve your blood circulation by promoting new blood vessel growth. It can also lower high blood pressure, a key risk factor for atherosclerosis.

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