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- What is Arteriosclerosis?
- Diagnosing Arteriosclerosis
- What Causes Arteriosclerosis?
- Help for Arteriosclerosis
What is Arteriosclerosis?
Arteriosclerosis is one of the most common diseases of the arteries. This disease occurs when plaque (which is made up of cholesterol, fibrin, platelets and other substances) forms on the walls of the arteries and obstructs the normal flow and circulation of blood. The arteries become narrowed and the walls lose their elasticity, causing blood flow to be reduced.
People often confuse arteriosclerosis with atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a sub-group of arteriosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a specific type of arteriosclerosis. Atherosclerosis refers to the thickening of plaque building up in the inner lining of the artery.
Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol and calcium deposits found in the blood. The plaque hardens over time and narrows the arteries thus reducing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the organs and other parts of the body.
This can lead to serious problems, including heart attack, stroke, or even death. While there is a distinction between arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis, however, the symptoms and effect on health are the same.
How is Arteriosclerosis Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of arteriosclerosis is based on the symptoms described, individual medical history, and a physical examination.
Your doctor may look for signs such as:
- A decreased pulse in a narrowed artery
- Decreased blood pressure in a limb
- A bulge in the abdomen or behind the knee
Blood tests, ultrasounds, imaging scans or electrocardiograms may also help to diagnose arteriosclerosis.
Symptoms of Arteriosclerosis
The symptoms and signs of arteriosclerosis generally depend on which arteries are affected. Some of the most commonly involved regions are the arteries of the legs, usually in the calf. Arteries to the brain, kidneys, heart and abdominal aorta can also be involved.
When the blockage is severe enough to restrict blood flow to an area, symptoms occur. For example, when blood flow to the lower leg is restricted, leg pain is experienced. The pain can usually be relieved by rest. However, if the pain continues to persist while resting, this could indicate a more serious problem. Resuming physical activities and exerting muscles may also increase pain again.
Other symptoms include:
- Infection, caused in extreme cases by lack of blood supply and oxygen
- Dizziness and sudden weakness, caused by blockage in the carotid artery in the neck, resulting in stroke-like symptoms
- Chest pain (angina)
- Heart attack, when the coronary arteries are obstructed
- Increase in blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Poor circulation to the fingers and toes
- Kidney artery blockage
- Erectile dysfunction
What Causes Arteriosclerosis?
The main causes of arteriosclerosis include:
- Gender – males are more susceptible to developing arteriosclerosis than females
- High cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
- Hereditary factors
- Advancing age
- “Type A” personality types
Other factors that can increase your risk of developing arteriosclerosis include certain viral infections, allergies, chronic kidney disease, nicotine or other drug use, or raised levels of the amino acid homocystine.
Help for Arteriosclerosis
The treatment of arteriosclerosis depends on the symptoms presented and severity of the condition. Treatment options range from light exercise to medication to surgery. In very extreme cases, surgery may be recommended.
It is possible to control and manage arteriosclerosis by adopting positive and healthy lifestyle changes, which can go a long way in preventing further complications and damage.
People who suffer from arteriosclerosis should increase their intake of calcium and magnesium. They should also reduce stress levels through relaxation techniques, eat a healthy, well balanced diet, quit smoking in a natural manner, exercise regularly, and maintain healthy levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.