After cancer, heart disease is the second cause of death in the world. One of the prominent causes of heart disease is atherosclerosis. In general, atherosclerosis means the narrowing of blood vessel which ultimately hinders the blood flow through the vessel. Various substances accumulate on the inner wall of blood vessel and with time the blood vessel start to lose its elasticity and become harder.
In some cases, the sclerotic vain and artery can be blocked permanently and results in severe consequences. “It causes nearly 75% of cardiovascular related deaths and is found in 80 – 90% of Americans over the age of 30”. The severity of atherosclerosis varies depending on which arteries are blocked. If an artery that is responsible for carrying large volume of blood is blocked; for instance, blockage of the artery of heart can cause death.
Development of atherosclerosis:
The appearance of atherosclerosis does not occur abruptly. It starts with a process called plaque formation. The plaque is a relatively hard substance consists of mainly fat, cholesterol, and calcium. First, the fatty substances start to deposit on the inner wall of the blood vessel. Then cholesterol also accumulates on those fatty substances. Finally the deposition of calcium on the plaque makes it inflexible. With time the depositing mass becomes larger and makes the passage of blood vessel narrow.
The organ or tissue connected to that artery then may suffer from depravity of blood and oxygen. If the organ is heart, then a person can experience angina pectoris; a characteristic pain sensation. Sometimes the artery can be blocked fully and cause heart attack in case of heart artery blockage and stroke in case of blockage of brain artery which can cause death. In some cases the plaque can be broken down, and shredded fragments can be carried out through blood to the small artery and occlude the artery. In this process, peripheral artery disease can develop which may affect legs or arms.
The leading cause for the development of atherosclerosis is the intake of fatty food. Foods containing high cholesterol and high density lipoprotein(LDL) increase the risk of appearance of atherosclerosis. Chain smoking, consume of alcohol regularly can also induce atherosclerosis. Diabetic patients are more prone to it. Scientist also have found the correlation between genetic disposition and occurrence of atherosclerosis. People passing sedentary life style and lack of regular exercise, and obese persons are also prone to atherosclerosis.
The onset of the symptoms of atherosclerosis is very slow. It is not seen any kind of symptoms unless there is any disturbance in regular blood flow. “Many times, people with atherosclerosis don’t have any symptoms until an artery is 40% clogged with plaque”. If the blood flow is lowered in heart, a person can experience angina; a painful sensation in heart muscle, manifested by chest pain and frequent breathing. Intestine, kidney, legs, and brain are also affected depending on which arteries are blocked. Blurred vision, palpitation, dizziness, imbalance of co-ordination can be seen in some cases. Coronary heart disease, carotid artery disease, peripheral arterial disease, and chronic kidney disease are different form of disease caused by atherosclerosis.
Prevention: There is a saying, “prevention is better than cure”. A health cautious person can easily avoid atherosclerosis by doing the following activities: 1. Quit the smoking habit 2. Avoid to drink alcohol 3. Reduce the intake of foods those contain high amount of fatty substances and cholesterol. 4. Make a schedule to do regular exercise throughout the week. Regular exercise will not only prevent atherosclerosis but also help to maintain a peaceful mind. 5. By losing overweight one can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and many other diseases. 6. Regular check of diabetes and blood pressure is also important.
Once the atherosclerosis is diagnosed, different approaches can be made to treat it. The treatment is dependent on the severity of the atherosclerosis. It can be treated by drug, surgical, and non surgical way. To reduce the body cholesterol level, statin group of drugs can be used like lovastatin, atovastatin etc. Niacin can be used to reduce the LDL level in the body. High blood pressure can be treated by beta blocker class of drug like metoprolol, angiotensisn converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors like, enalpril, lisinopril, and calcium channel blocker like, verapamil, nifedepine etc. Heparin, warferin can also be used some cases to make the blood thin to ease the flow through blood vessel.
The plaque can also be removed from the blood vessel by a mechanical procedure called atherectomy by inserting a rotating shaver. Angioplasty is also useful in some cases. In this procedure, the blood vessel is inflated at the point of clot by the help of a balloon. Then a support is inserted to prevent the clotting of plaque again. In worse cases surgical procedure is used. A tube is placed to alter the blood flow.
Atherosclerosis can be removed permanently. With time it appears again. But by maintaining a healthy life style and with drug one can prevent the atherosclerosis to become more worse.