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Atherosclerosis – Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and prevention

Atherosclerosis – Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and prevention

Atherosclerosis is one of the most common causes of heart disease and stroke. It is the accumulation of plaque in the arteries, which can eventually disrupt blood flow and prevent it from reaching the organs. So, the plaque buildup increases the risk of heart attack. One can, however, opt for treatment and healthy lifestyle changes to manage and prevent the condition. Here are the symptoms of atherosclerosis and its management options.

Atherosclerosis can go unnoticed until it is at a rather advanced stage. Nonetheless, those with atherosclerosis may experience the following symptoms:

Angina: Atherosclerosis often manifests as chest discomfort or angina. This happens when the heart does not get enough blood and oxygen due to clogged arteries.

Breathlessness: Shortness of breath can be brought on by atherosclerosis, which causes the arteries in the lungs to narrow, blocking the flow of oxygen-rich blood.

Numbness: One may experience numbness in the arms and legs, as the arteries in these parts can also be affected.

Fatigue: Narrowed arteries can prevent the heart from getting an adequate supply of blood and oxygen, resulting in fatigue.

Erectile dysfunction: Here, the blood supply to the penis can be affected, causing erectile dysfunction.

Although the precise cause of atherosclerosis is not yet known, the following risk factors are associated with the condition:

High blood pressure: High blood pressure damages the inner lining of arteries and increases plaque buildup.

High level of LDL: High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), referred to as bad cholesterol, can lead to the accumulation of plaque in the arteries.

Diabetes: High blood glucose levels can harm the inner lining of arteries, so, those with diabetes are more likely to develop atherosclerosis.

Family history: If an immediate family member experienced atherosclerosis, one is at a higher risk of developing the condition.

Doctors may use multiple tools to confirm plaque buildup in the arteries. Here a few diagnostic tools they may choose:

Physical examination: Here, the doctor will examine the heartbeat and check for any atherosclerosis symptoms, such as a weak pulse or a bruit (an unusual sound).

Blood tests: Blood tests can help the doctor examine the glucose and cholesterol levels and other potential risk factors for the condition.

Imaging: Imaging tests can be conducted to visualize the arteries and spot any blockages or narrowing. Doctors may recommend an ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Electrocardiogram (ECG): An ECG can help detect any irregularities in the electrical or rhythmic activity of the heart that may indicate atherosclerosis.

Stress test: Here, the heart response to exercise is observed. This can help detect any irregularities in the functioning of the heart that might be brought on by atherosclerosis.

Angiography: Angiography involves inserting a dye into the arteries and using X-ray images to find blockages or narrowing in the vessels.

Angioplasty and stenting: An artery that is too thin may occasionally be widened using angioplasty. To assist in keeping the artery open, a stent may also be inserted into it.

Coronary artery bypass grafting: CABG may be recommended for severe cases of atherosclerosis. In order to bypass the blocked artery and allow blood to reach the heart, this procedure uses a healthy blood vessel from another body part.

Preventive measures
Prevention here is nothing but the management of risk factors associated with the condition. Some lifestyle changes can help one keep the heart and arteries healthy. Here are a few changes one can make:

Better food choices: A nutritious, balanced meal plan can help lower the risk of atherosclerosis. The regimen should be low in cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fats.

Regular exercise: Regular physical activity can help one keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check, reducing the risk of plaque buildup in the arteries.

Managing existing health conditions: The risk of atherosclerosis can be lowered by preventing and managing lifestyle-related issues, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Stress management: Stress can play a role in the formation of plaque and narrowing of arteries. So, managing stress through relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation can lower the risk of atherosclerosis.

Routine health checkups: Getting regular health examinations can help one identify and control risk factors to prevent the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque.

If left untreated, atherosclerosis can pose a serious health risk. However, one can make healthy changes to their lifestyle and control the risk factors to prevent this condition. Prioritizing heart health, leading a healthy lifestyle, monitoring and managing existing health issues, and seeking timely medical assistance are all important steps to keep heart issues at bay.

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