Definition of Atherosclerosis

Arteries are blood vessels that drain oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Atherosclerosis is an arterial hardening condition caused by cholesterol plaque deposits. As time goes by, this plaque along with calcium and platelets, can continue to thicken up until it eventually clogs the total arterial veins.

Symptoms of Atherosclerosis

Blood vessels clogged due to plaque can cause various diseases, such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Coronary heart disease to heart attack, symptoms can be severe chest pain, which can be accompanied by shortness of breath, fatigue, cold sweat, vomiting nausea, fainting, even death.
Stroke blockage, symptoms can be a sudden paralysis on the side of the limbs, paralysis of the facial muscles, difficulty in speech, eating and drinking, double vision, impaired balance, confusion, and difficulty to understand the conversation.

Causes of atherosclerosis

The exact cause of atherosclerosis is not known to be certain, but the disease begins as a result of damage or injury to the inner lining of the arteries (endothelium). Some causes of this damage include:
  • Diabetes or resistant to insulin.
  • High cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood pressure levels.
  • Smoking habit.
  • Obesity or excess body weight.
  • Diseases that cause inflammation, such as arthritis, infection, or lupus.
  • Family history with atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, or stroke.

Risk Factors for atherosclerosis

Some risk factors for atherosclerosis include:
  • Diabetes.
  • High cholesterol levels in the blood.
  • Smoking habit.
  • Overweight or obese.
  • Lack of physical activity, more sitting, and less exercise.
  • Family history has an atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, or stroke.
  • High blood pressure.

Atherosclerosis Diagnosis

The doctor will diagnose atherosclerosis by conducting complete medical interviews, physical examinations, and appropriate supporting examinations, such as:
  • Blood screening, such as routine blood screening, cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and blood sugar.
  • ECG (electrocardiogram) or heart record, as a preliminary examination, to determine the presence of obstruction or abnormalities in the heart.
  • Echocardiography (ULTRASOUND of the Heart), to see the inner part of the heart, function of the heart pump, and the function of the heart valve.
  • Treadmill test, which is the heart rhythm examination performed while the people with do physical activity (treadmill), for early detection of coronary heart disease.
  • Angiography, which is a cardiac examination performed by inserting a camera into the heart's blood vessels, to see the obstruction in the heart's blood vessels.
  • CT scan of the heart or brain, to determine the presence of obstruction or abnormalities in the heart or brain.
  • MRI of the brain, if suspected of arterial obstruction in the brain causing stroke.

Atherosclerosis prevention

Some efforts to prevent diseases caused by atherosclerosis include:
  • Quitting smoking as it can damage the blood vessel walls, so that atherosclerosis plaque is more easily formed.
  • Exercise regularly for 150 minutes per week or 30 minutes per day.
  • Regularly checking health conditions to doctors periodically, especially in groups of people with risk factors.
  • Change your diet by reducing bad fat intake, reducing salt and sugar intake, avoiding food in processed packaging, and reproducing vegetables and fruit.

Atherosclerosis Treatment

In coronary heart disease, the doctor will provide medication that is useful to dilate blood vessels, overcome chest pains, and prevent further clotting and blockage. The purpose of this treatment is to keep the oxygen and nutrients flowing to the heart and brain.

In a heart attack or stroke of obstruction, the treatment is an infusion medication that can destroy the plaque (can be administered if the patient comes in 3 hours after a heart attack or stroke, and meet certain medical requirements) as well as medications that can prevent blood clotting. Surgical procedures can also be performed to overcome cardiac arrest, i.e. angiography, stent fitting to open a plaque-induced blockage (if the patient comes in 3 hours after a heart attack, and meet certain medical requirements), as well as bypass surgery.

When to go to a doctor?

For groups of people who have risk factors, we recommend regular medical checkup to the doctor, in order to prevent complications from atherosclerosis.
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