Atherosclerosis is a condition where arteries narrow due to a building up of a plaque on the artery walls. Arteries function by transporting blood from the heart to other body parts, and they are lined with a thin layer of cells called endothelium, and these inner cells are responsible for a smooth flow of blood throughout the body.
The early stages of Atherosclerosis entail damage to the endothelium. In such instances, the damaged endothelium cells are repaired by cholesterol. When cholesterol is introduced, the body responds by sending a type of white blood cell to clean up this cholesterol. If there is a failure in the cleanup process then there will be a buildup of a plaque, which consists of cholesterol, calcium, macrophages, and other blood substances.
When plaque continues to build up in the artery wall flow of blood can be hindered. This hindrance means the blood will clot more, and this can cause life-threatening implications. If the plaque breaks open, there is an accumulation of platelets across the affected area, which in turn form blood clots. Blood clots can cause a block in the artery, and the result of this is usually a life-threatening condition, which could involve a heart attack or a stroke.
Symptoms of Atherosclerosis in Carotid Arteries
Known to transport blood to the brain, the blockage of these arteries can cause stroke, along with such symptoms as inadequate breathing, headaches, paralysis, facial numbness, and weakness.
Since coronary arteries transport blood to the heart, a buildup of plaque in this area will mean a limited blood supply to the heart and may cause angina (pain in the chest) and heart attacks. The symptoms include chest pains, vomiting, coughing, severe anxiety, and dizziness among others.
The kidneys get blood through the renal arteries. Thus, a blockage means a limited supply of blood to the kidney, which in turn leads to chronic kidney disease. However, the affected individual may show such signs as loss of appetite, inability to concentrate, and swelling of the hands and feet among others.
Several treatment options are available for Atherosclerosis. They include:
Changes in Lifestyle: This entails healthy diet, physical activities, and weight management. The affected individual may be advised to take foods with soluble fiber while avoiding alcohol, sodium, and saturated fats.
Medication: Anti-platelet medications will avert the accumulation of plaque or prevention of blood clots. Statins may also be prescribed for a reduction in cholesterol level, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors to reduce blood pressure.
Surgery: In extreme cases, surgical procedures like coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) and angioplasty may be recommended. In angioplasty, the artery is expanded, thus opening the blockage, and subsequently the free flow of blood. CABG involves the use of arteries from other body parts to bypass a narrowed coronary artery, thus improving overall blood flow.
Prevention of Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis can be prevented. In fact, the prevention of the development of Atherosclerosis is a very viable means of treating the condition. Here are the steps to significantly reduce the chances of a plaque building up:
Diet: Saturated fats are bad for the body as they increase levels of bad cholesterol. Foods like olive oil, seeds, nuts, avocados, oily fish, and walnuts are high in unsaturated fats. Thus they reduce the level of bad cholesterol and consequently fight Atherosclerosis.
Exercising: When the body is subjected to adequate exercise, the fitness level is improved; the blood pressure lowered, and considerable weight loss.
Avoiding Smoking: Smoking is known to raise blood pressure, alongside being one of the key risk factors for Atherosclerosis. Hence, it is recommended that individuals stop smoking as soon as possible, and consult their doctors on ways to give up and manage withdrawal symptoms.
Causes of Atherosclerosis
When the inner area of the artery is damaged, the implication is Atherosclerosis. And such damages can be caused by high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, smoking, and high levels of cholesterol.
There are many natural supplements on the market today that help the body to produce nitric oxide. Scientists have discovered that nitric oxide is an important molecule that improves the health of the endothelium cells. Remember it’s those cells (the inner lining of the arteries) that become damaged and allow for a buildup of plaque. Keeping the endothelium cells healthy is one of the keys in combating atherosclerosis.