About Arteriosclerosis

What you need to know about this artery-affecting condition

Arteriosclerosis is a persistent disease of the arteries. The walls of the arteries lose their elasticity and become more narrow. This causes a reduction in the bloodflow to the affected region. This disease can become quite serious and lead to heart attacks, strokes and death.

Arteriosclerosis/atherosclerosis

The Mayo Clinic cautions us not to confuse arteriosclerosis with atherosclerosis. The thickening and stiffening of the walls of your arteries is known as arteriosclerosis, while atherosclerosis is a distinct kind of arteriosclerosis. Atherosclerosis refers to the increase of plaque in the arteries and is both preventable and treatable.

Risk factors

Risk factors for arteriosclerosis are varied. The American Heart Association states that genetic factors are a strong consideration as they relate to the body’s ability to break down lipids that contain cholesterol. High cholesterol is a key factor in the development of hardened arteries. Other risk factors, according to the AHA, include high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and obesity.

Location and complication

Arteries can become blocked at several different points in the body. Carotid arteries are near the brain, and a clog in this location can lead to a stroke, while blockages in the coronary arteries can lead to heart attacks or angina (chest pain). The Mayo Clinic also states that a decrease of sensitivity to heat and cold in the arms or legs may be a result of a block in the peripheral arteries.

Symptoms

Chest pain, also known as angina, can be a symptom of vascular arteriosclerosis in the arteries around the heart. Slurred speech, difficulty speaking or numbness in your arms or legs may be a sign of atherosclerosis in the arteries leading to your brain. Peripheral arterial disease will result in leg discomfort when walking. The Mayo Clinic staff adds that in some men, erectile dysfunction may also be a symptom.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will diagnose vascular arteriosclerosis utilizing both your medical and family history as well as a physical examination. Rodney A. White, author of Artherosclerosis and Arteriosclerosis, suggests that physicians will look for a decrease in your pulse in a suspected problematic artery, bulges in the abdomen or behind the knee and lowered blood pressure in an affected area.

Ultrasounds, electrocardiograms and blood tests may also be utilized in the diagnostic procedure. Other imaging tests may be used, such as a CT scan or computerized tomography and/or a magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA).

Treatment

Controlling hypertension, cholesterol and diet, and cigarette smoking cessation, are all important steps to correcting arteriosclerosis. This may mean a lifestyle change and possibly adding medications to your daily life. The Mayo Clinic lists cholesterol-lowering medications, anti-platelet medications and anticoagulants as some of the drug groups that may be prescribed by your physician.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary. Angioplasty is a procedure whereby a balloon-tipped catheter is inserted into the blood vessel, and the balloon is inflated to open the clogged artery. Another type of surgery commonly used to treat arteriosclerosis is surgery to bypass the clogged arteries.

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