Arteriosclerosis: definition and symptoms

What is atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is the most common form of arteriosclerosis , sclerosis in the arteries. In other words, it is a problem characterized by hardening and loss of elasticity of the artery wall.

Atherosclerosis is caused by the development of an atherosclerotic plaque. This plaque is formed and developed gradually by successive deposits of lipids (fats).

Atherosclerosis mainly affects medium and large arteries. These are blood vessels essential for the proper functioning of the body, including:

  • the coronary arteries , which supply blood to the heart;
  • the carotid arteries , which allow blood to flow to the brain.

 What are the consequences of atherosclerosis?

The development of an atheromatous plaque can have many harmful consequences in the arteries:

  • a stenosis , which corresponds to a decrease in the diameter of the artery;
  • a thrombosis , which corresponds to a partial or total obstruction of the artery.

 What is the risk of complications?

Atherosclerosis is one of the main cardiovascular risk factors . Rupture of an atherosclerotic plaque can lead to poor oxygenation of the body. Vital organs, such as the heart and brain, can no longer function properly, which can lead to serious complications:

  • a myocardial infarction ;
  • a cerebrovascular accident (stroke) ;
  • an occlusive peripheral arterial disease (PAD) .
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 What are the causes of atherosclerosis?

The formation of an atherosclerotic plaque can be caused by a combination of factors such as:

  • genetic predispositions ;
  • metabolic syndrome , including overweight, obesity and diabetes ;
  • poor eating habits , especially with a diet that is too high in calories and too high in fat;
  • a lack of physical activity ;
  • a stressful environment.

 Who is concerned ?

Atherosclerosis usually manifests itself in people over 40 years of age . The development of atheromatous plaque is gradual. Atherosclerosis can remain asymptomatic for several years before the first symptoms appear.

 What are the symptoms of atherosclerosis?

The development of an atheromatous plaque can be invisible for several years. The onset of the first symptoms of atherosclerosis usually marks the onset of complications.

Symptoms of atherosclerosis can be different depending on the arteries affected. It can be manifested in particular by:

  • localized pain, especially in the chest with the occurrence of angina, or angina pectoris ;
  • shortness of breath;
  • a blood pressure ;
  • of dizziness ;
  • vision disturbances;
  • motor and sensory deficit in the lower and upper limbs;
  • intermittent claudication.
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 How to prevent atherosclerosis?

To prevent the occurrence of atherosclerosis, it is advisable to limit certain risk factors such as sedentary lifestyle, overweight, hyperlipidemia or even hypercholesterolemia. For this, it is recommended to:

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

In addition, it is also advisable to:

  • watch your weight;
  • control his blood pressure;
  • regularly check the lipid levels in the blood .

 How to treat atherosclerosis?

Depending on the case, several drug treatments can be considered to limit the development of atherosclerosis. Among the possible treatments, a doctor can prescribe in particular:

  • statins to regulate lipid levels in the blood;
  • antiplatelet drugs to limit the formation of blood clots;
  • antihypertensives in case of arterial hypertension.

If the prognosis is vital, a surgical intervention can be put in place. The purpose of this operation is to restore the irrigation of vital organs by promoting blood circulation. Several techniques can be used, such as:

  • angioplasty, a technique that widens the diameter of the coronary arteries;
  • clearing by endarterectomy, an operation that removes atheromatous plaque present in the carotid arteries;
  • the bypass surgery , an operation that is to bypass obstacles in the coronary arteries by creating a “bridge.”