Arteriosclerosis: definition and symptoms

Arteriosclerosis is characterized by the thickening, hardening and loss of elasticity of the lining of the arteries . Atherosclerosis is a cardiovascular risk factor and is a form of arteriosclerosis.

 What is arteriosclerosis?

Arteriosclerosis is a form of sclerosis that occurs in the arteries. In other words, it means that it is characterized by hardening, thickening and loss of elasticity of the artery wall .

Arteriosclerosis is often defined as a natural phenomenon associated with age with normal thickening of the artery walls.

However, many studies have also shown that this hardening of the wall can be accelerated by certain cardiovascular disorders . The gradual deposition of lipids at the level of the wall of the arteries can in particular be the cause of this thickening and hardening. In this case, we speak more often of atherosclerosis with reference to atheroma, which refers to the fatty plaque formed.

What are the causes of arteriosclerosis?

Although arteriosclerosis is defined by some researchers as a normal phenomenon associated with aging , this sclerosis in the arteries could be favored by many factors including:

  • genetic factors ;
  • metabolic disorders ;
  • bad eating habits ;
  • a lack of physical activity ;
  • certain stressors.
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 Who is concerned ?

Due to its many causes, arteriosclerosis can affect many people. Among the populations most at risk, we can distinguish in particular:

  • the elderly ;
  • people with little or no physical activity ;
  • overweight people ;
  • people with dyslipidemia such as hyperlipidemia and hypercholesterolemia;
  • people with diabetes ;
  • people with hypertension , that is to say with high blood pressure ;
  • smokers .

 What is the risk of complications?

Arteriosclerosis can remain asymptomatic for several years. However, in the most serious cases, it can block arteries essential for the proper functioning of the body such as the coronary arteries and the carotid arteries. Causing poor oxygenation, the obstruction of these arteries can lead to:

  • a myocardial infarction ;
  • a cerebrovascular accident (stroke) ;
  • an occlusive peripheral arterial disease (PAD) .

 What are the symptoms of arteriosclerosis?

Arteriosclerosis can remain invisible or manifest itself through different symptoms. These depend on the arteries affected by sclerosis.

Arteriosclerosis can in particular cause:

  • localized pain, especially when moving or in the chest with the occurrence of angina, or angina pectoris ;
  • cardiac arrhythmia, which may be associated with high blood pressure ;
  • a motor and / or sensory deficit in the upper and lower limbs;
  • intermittent claudication;
  • vision disturbances;
  • shortness of breath;
  • of dizziness .
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 How to prevent arteriosclerosis?

Prevention of arteriosclerosis consists of limiting risk factors such as poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle. For this, it is recommended to:

  • adopt a healthy and balanced diet by limiting the consumption of processed products and excess fats, sugars and alcohol;
  • engage in regular physical activity.

To prevent the occurrence of arteriosclerosis, it is also advisable to maintain regular medical monitoring. This must in particular include a lipid balance to analyze the blood levels of total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Weight and blood pressure monitoring is also recommended to limit the risk of complications.

 How to treat arteriosclerosis?

Treatment of arteriosclerosis depends on its origin, course and severity.

Drug treatment may in particular be considered in the event of arteriosclerosis. In particular, doctors can prescribe:

  • antihypertensive drugs;
  • statins;
  • antiplatelet drugs.

Surgical treatment can be started if arteriosclerosis is life threatening. The aim of the surgery is to restore blood circulation when the coronary or carotid arteries are blocked. Depending on the case, the operation can for example be:

  • angioplasty to widen the diameter of the coronary arteries;
  • endarterectomy to remove atheromatous plaque formed in the carotid arteries;
  • a coronary artery bypass graft to bypass blocked arteries