This is the most common form of arteriosclerosis. It is a serious, progressive disease which develops when fatty deposits called ‘atheromas’ build up within the artery walls. These deposits are comprised of cholesterol and over time, clog up the arteries.
This restricts blood supply through the arteries to internal organs which affects its ability to function as normal. Another problem is if one of these fatty deposits (or plaques) ruptures which then causes a blood clot to form within the artery. This blood clot can prevent blood from flowing to an internal organ, such as the heart which then prevents that organ from receiving energy and oxygen. Cells within that organ die which causes permanent damage. For example, if this occurs in a part of the brain then it will result in a stroke. Atherosclerosis is caused by several factors, one of these being high blood pressure.
Causes of atherosclerosis
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- A diet high in saturated fats
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Genetic history
- Ethnicity, e.g. Peoples of South Asian and African descent are at greater risk of high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
- No physical activity
Our arteries harden and narrow as we age, usually once we pass the age of 40. This is often a result of our lifestyles, in the sense that they catch up with us by this age. If you have led an unhealthy lifestyle then there is a greater chance of you developing atherosclerosis.
Symptoms of atherosclerosis
These are likely to be symptoms of any of the following diseases which develop as a result of atherosclerosis:
High blood pressure is a risk factor in any of these diseases.
Atherosclerosis is diagnosed via a range of tests which include blood tests, blood pressure measurements, angiogram and an ECG.
Treatment for atherosclerosis
This much the same as for arteriosclerosisand includes taking exercise, eating healthily, losing weight and other lifestyle changes.
Medication will be prescribed which are designed to treat the causes of atherosclerosis such as high blood pressure. This can include calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors and diuretics.
Statins can be prescribed to lower cholesterol levels. Other forms of medication include aspirin which helps to thin the blood and clopidogrel - a type of anti-platelet medicine. Both of these help to prevent blood clots from forming.
Surgery may be performed in more serious cases, e.g. coronary artery bypass.
In both arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis, the common theme is that of arteries which have hardened and thickened over the years. These arteries are less flexible which mean that the blood flowing through pushes a lot harder against them.
This increased pressure causes blood pressure to rise.
What high blood pressure medication does is to widen these arteries so that blood can flow through as per normal and without any putting any undue pressure on them.
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