Atherosclerosis is hardening of the arteries which is also known as arteriosclerosis. Healthy arteries are strong and flexible which is necessary to carry oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Arteries are lined with endothelium which works to keep the inside of the arteries smooth to ensure blood flow. When cholesterol damages the endothelium it creates plaque which is what builds up to harden the arteries. This plaque creates a blockage that slows down the blood flow, but it can also rupture which would move the blockage to somewhere else in the body creating a clot. This clot is the usual cause of stroke, heart disease, or heart attack. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in America; this disease kills more people in America than all cancers. It is necessary to have some background information on atherosclerosis before discussing treatments.
Atherosclerosis is known as a silent killer because there are not any symptoms until it is too late. Sometimes there is pain associated with the hardening of the arteries because of the swelling, but this is not usually the case and you will find out you have atherosclerosis when you have suffered from a heart attack. Atherosclerosis occurs throughout our lifetime even when we are young since our body produces cholesterol. Of course it is the bad cholesterol that will damage our arteries which we can also get from eating greasy, fatty foods. It is great to have a high level of the good cholesterol. Risk factors for atherosclerosis include diabetes, obesity, stress, high cholesterol, not exercising, and an unhealthy diet as mentioned previously. Your doctor would usually be able to diagnose atherosclerosis by a blood test and imaging tests.
Treatment for atherosclerosis can be as simple as a lifestyle change such as exercising regularly, losing weight if needed, quitting smoking if you do, eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and not drinking alcohol excessively. Treatments for this disease are ways to prevent getting atherosclerosis or to just improve your arteries all together. Since a risk factor is high cholesterol, make sure you talk to your doctor about the different types of medications there are to improve your cholesterol. There are medications that boost your good cholesterol and will slow down and reverse the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries. There are also medications to help lower your blood pressure, and anticoagulants can help prevent clots from forming, even aspirin does this.
If your atherosclerosis is serious enough though, surgery is usually the treatment. An angioplasty can be done where a balloon attached to a catheter opens your artery and a mesh tube (stent) is left in the artery to keep it open. Another treatment option is when fatty deposits are surgically removed from your arteries known as an endarterectomy. Many people have heard of bypass surgery being done after a heart attack. This procedure uses a blood vessel from somewhere else in your body or a synthetic tube that will then encourage blood to flow in a new route around your blockage. Another treatment is thrombolytic therapy which involves a clot-dissolving drug inserted into the clot to break it up.
As you can see there are quite a few options of treatments for atherosclerosis, but the best is prevention. Start exercising today, even walking for 30 minutes a day can make such a difference, break it up into 10 minute intervals if necessary. An easy way of adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is to just cut up some raw veggies or fruits for a snack. Make sure to talk to your doctor about medication for cholesterol or blood pressure if you need it.
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