What You Need To Know About Atherosclerosis

By Alley Benton
Updated April 14, 2017
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What You Need To Know About AtherosclerosisWhat you need to know about atherosclerosis is that it is a type of arterial disorder, in which the walls of the artery thicken because of buildup of white blood cells and fat. This buildup becomes plaque over time, and it generally stays where it is formed, unless a piece breaks off, flows through the blood vessels and get stuck somewhere else, potentially causing a blockage.

Over time the plaque which builds up on artery walls will begin to weaken it, as the elasticity fades, walls thicken to protect the blood flow. This can cause some pain, changes in heart rate and breathing, lightheadedness, and other symptoms.

The arteries which are affected by the disorder can be anywhere in the body, from the heart to the kidneys, and all organs and appendages in between. If plaque builds up in arteries of the heart and prevents blood flow, your heart can stop, which is a heart attack. Similarly, if a piece of a blood clot breaks off and flows into the brain, blocking an artery, you could have a stroke.

Causes and Symptoms of Atherosclerosis:

It's impossible to understand what you need to know about atherosclerosis, without first learning about the causes and symptoms of the disorder. Currently, there is no known reason for the onset of the disorder, but there are several factors which increase the risks of developing it. Smoking cigarettes, living a sedentary lifestyle, being obese, having diabetes, drinking large quantities of alcohol regularly, and age will all play a role in whether or not atherosclerosis will be an issue for you. Individuals over the age of 60 are at a greater risk for developing heart related illnesses than those who are younger, although the disorder is not age specific. Genetics can also be one of the factors that contribute to the disorder, as studies have shown that individuals with a history of heart failure in the family could be at a greater risk for atherosclerosis.

Symptoms of atherosclerosis include higher than average blood pressure, trouble breathing, headaches, nausea, numbness in the face, loss of mobility, fatigue, cold symptoms, and even loss of consciousness. Some patients notice swelling in their hands and feet, which could be due to blockages in these areas. Severe results of the hardening arterial walls and blockages inside are heart attack and stroke.

Testing and Treatment:

Your doctor will treat the symptoms of the disorder, before attempting to treat the atherosclerosis itself. This could mean surgery to remove or bypass a blockage. Medications may also be used to reduce coagulation and prevent further blockages from occurring. Your doctor will know what type of treatment is necessary by checking for hardened arteries and blockages through computed tomography or ultrasound testing. Blood pressure will also be checked at this time to make sure that it is within a normal range for your height and weight.

For more information on what you need to know about atherosclerosis, contact your family physician. Report any pain or numbness in your legs, arms, or chest immediately, and follow any other symptoms to verify whether or not treatment for atherosclerosis should be considered.

* Disclaimer:
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.