Coronary atherosclerosis

Coronary atherosclerosis is a type of atherosclerosis that involves a build up of plaque on the lining of the arteries. Plaque is a waxy type substance that can be fatty deposits, fibrin, calcium and the products of cellular waste. This process causes the walls of the arteries to thicken and become less pliable. The blood flow can become constricted through arteries that have been affected by this process. This disease affects the arterial blood vessels of the human body. These blood vessels form the circulatory network that carries blood from the heart to all parts of the body once it has been oxygenated. The lay person’s term for this disease is hardening of the arteries.

Atherosclerosis can start to occur as early as late childhood or the early teen years. The biggest concern with this disease is that it is progressive and it is usually asymptomatic until it has caused enough constriction in the blood flow of the body to cause damage to the heart or other organs. This disease is the most common cause of heart attacks, strokes, congestive heart failure, heart disease and many other cardiovascular diseases. This disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

Atherosclerosis can be the underlying cause of many diseases including coronary artery disease. In this disease the coronary arteries which lead to the heart become narrow and hard due to build up of plaque. This results in restricted blood flow to the heart. Coronary artery disease can cause chest pain or angina. If the artery is completely blocked or blood flow is severely restricted a heart attack can occur. This disease has currently affected over 10 million people in the United States alone.

Atherosclerosis can lead to a stroke. A stroke occurs when an artery in the brain has been occluded and then plaque from that occlusion breaks off and forms a blood clot that cuts off the supply of blood to that part of the brain. That area of the brain can then die or become severely damaged. When artherosclerosis affects the arteries in the abdomen severe abdominal pain can occur or a bowel infarction can occur. This causes blood flow to stop in the intestines. Portions of the intestines can die due to lack of blood flow.

This disease can cause narrowing of the arteries that lead to the extremities of the body which can cause a lack of blood flow to the legs in particular. The most common occurrence of this is in the popliteal artery which is flows through the leg and knee and the femoral artery which travels through the groin and down the thigh of the legs. If the blood flow is restricted the lower limbs may feel cold to the touch or cramp severely when exercised. In severe cases the limbs can turn blue and gangrene can occur in the most severe of cases which may result in amputation of the limb.

There are ways a person can reduce their chances of developing atherosclerosis. Arterial plaque frequently is made up of fatty deposits and cholesterol. Therefore it is very important for anyone who has concerns about this disease to eat a healthy low fat diet and exercise on a regular basis. Cholesterol levels in the blood need to be checked regularly by a medical professional and steps taken to keep cholesterol levels within normal ranges. Alcohol consumption should be avoided or severely limited as alcohol has a very high fat content. People who have a history of heart or cardiovascular disease should be evaluated by a medical professional on a regular basis to keep their risk of this disease as low as possible.


Last updated on Apr 9th, 2010 and filed under Cardiovascular Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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