Atherosclerosis – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is an artery hardening and narrowing due to plaque build-up. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the system.(1)

Since you’re getting older, Fats, cholesterol and calcium can settle in your arteries and result in plaque formation. Plaque formation makes it hard to get blood to your arteries. Plaque can grow in all of your body’s arteries, including your heart, legs and kidneys.

It may cause a lack of blood and oxygen in different tissues of your body. Pieces of plaque may also break, leading to a blood clot. Atherosclerosis is a common cause heart attack, stroke, or heart failure if not treated.

Atherosclerosis is one of the most common problems associated with aging. This condition can be avoided and a wide range of treatment options are available.


Atherosclerosis is a kind of arteriosclerosis, also referred to as hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis are sometimes used interchangeably.

What causes atherosclerosis?

The accumulation of plaque and the successive hardening of the arteries limit blood flow through the arteries, prevents your organs and tissues from being supplied with the oxygenated blood they need to function.(2)

Common causes of arterial hardening include:

High cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy and yellow fat that can be found naturally in the body and in some foods you eat.

If there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it can clog your arteries. It turns into a hard plaque that restricts or hinders blood flow to your heart and other organs.


It is necessary to maintain good nutrition diet. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests you follow a healthy eating model which includes:

  • a many variety of fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains
  • low-fat milk products.
  • poultry and fish, skin-less.
  • nuts and legumes
  • vegetable oils that are not tropical, such as olive or sunflower oil.

Some other dietary advice:

  • Avoid sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, such as sugar-rich drinks, sweets and desserts.
  • The AHA recommends do not exceed 6 teaspoons or 100 calories of sugar per day for the majority of women, And only 9 teaspoons or 150 calories a day for men.
  • Avoid sodium-rich foods. The target is not to exceed 2300 milligrammes (mg) of sodium per day. Ideally, you should not consume more than 1500 mg a day.
  • Avoid products rich in unhealthy fats, such as trans fats. Replace these by unsaturated fats that are better for you. If you need to lower your blood cholesterol, lower the saturated fat content to a maximum of 5 to 6 percent of the total calories. For somebody who consumes 2,000 calories per day, that’s about 13 grams of saturated fat.


With age, your heart and blood vessels work harder to pump and receive blood. Your arteries may weaken and begin to lose their elasticity, which can increase their risk of plaque build-up.

Risk factor for atherosclerosis?

There are numerous factors that may increase your risk of atherosclerosis. Some risk factors are subject to change, but some are not.

Family history

If atherosclerosis occurs in your family, you may become atherosclerotic. This condition, along with other cardiac disorders, can be inherited.

Lack of exercise

Exercise regularly benefits your heart. It maintains your cardiac muscle strong and improves the circulation of oxygen and blood throughout your body.

Having a stationary lifestyle increases your risk of developing health conditions, including heart disease.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure can damage your blood vessels, causing them to weaken certain areas. Cholesterol and other substances in your blood can cause your arteries to become less elastic over time.


Tobacco use may damage blood vessels and the heart.


People with diabetes are at higher risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD).

Symptoms of atherosclerosis?

Most symptoms of atherosclerosis only become apparent when a blockage occurs. Commonly, the symptoms are:

  • chest pain or angina
  • pain in regions where the arteries are blocked, like in the leg, arms and more.
  • dyspnea
  • fatigue
  • confusing, which happens if the obstruction affects the circulation in your brain.
  • muscular weakness due to insufficient circulation.

You also need to be aware of the symptoms of a heart attack and stroke. These two diseases can be caused by atherosclerosis and require urgent medical treatment.

The symptoms of a heart attack or as follows:

  • abdominal pain
  • dyspnea
  • chest pain/discomfort.
  • pain in the shoulders, back, neck, hands.
  • perspiration
  • lightheadedness
  • nausea or vomiting
  • A feeling of something tragic or unusual will happen.

Symptoms of stroke are as follows:

  • hard to understand speech.
  • vision issues such as blurry vision or dual vision.
  • Facial or limb weakness or numbness.
  • difficulty speaking
  • loss of balance and stability.
  • sudden, severe headache
  • Fatigue, lightheadedness,vertigo

Heart attacks and strokes are urgent medical conditions. Call 911 or the local emergency department and get emergency medical care if you experience symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.

What is the diagnosis of atherosclerosis?

Your doctor will conduct a medical examination if you experience atherosclerosis symptoms. They will ensure that:

  • a weak heartbeat.
  • aneurysm, swelling or bloating of an artery caused by the weakness of the artery wall.
  • delayed healing, indicative of limited blood flow.

A cardiac specialist can listen to your heart to see if you have abnormal sounds. They’re going to listen to a whooshing sound, which indicates that an artery is blocked. Your doctor will conduct further tests if he believes that your arteries are narrowed or hard.

Tests may involve:

  • need a blood test to check your cholesterol.
  • uses a Doppler ultrasound to produce an image of the artery that indicates if it is blocked.
  • an ankle brachial index (ABI), which tests for blockage in the arms or legs by comparing the blood pressure of each member.
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) or computed tomography angiography (CTA) to create pictures of your body’s main arteries.
  • a cardiac angiogram, which is a type of chest radiograph that is carried out after the injection of radioactive dye into your cardiac arteries.
  • electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), that measures your heart’s electrical activity to determine areas of decreased blood flow.
  • Stress test, or exercise tolerance test, Monitor your heart rate and blood pressure while working out on a treadmill or stationary bike.

How is atherosclerosis treated?

Treatment involves changing the way you currently live to reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol. More exercise may be required to improve the health of your heart and blood vessels.

Unless you have severe atherosclerosis, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes as a first line of therapy. You may also need extra medical treatment, such as medicine or surgery.


Medicines may help to prevent the aggravation or severity of atherosclerosis.

The drugs used in the treatment of atherosclerosis are:

  • medicines for reducing cholesterol, including statins and fibrates.
  • angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, that can help keep your arteries from shrinking or hardening.
  • beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers for lowering your blood pressure.
  • diuretics, or water pills, to help lower the blood pressure.
  • anticoagulants and antiplatelet drugs like aspirin for preventing blood clotting and blocking your arteries.

Aspirin is especially effective for individuals with a history of atherosclerotic heart disease, like a heart attack or stroke. Taking aspirin can reduce your risk of developing another health complication.

If you have no history of cardiovascular atherosclerosis, You should only use aspirin for prevention. if you are less at risk of bleeding is and is more at risk of atherosclerosis cardiovascular disease.


If the symptoms are particularly severe or if the muscular or cutaneous tissues are in denger, You may need surgery.

Here are the possible operations for the treatment of atherosclerosis:

  • coronary artery bypass grafting, which involves using a vessel from another part of your body or a synthetic tube to divert blood around your blocked or narrowed artery.
  • thrombolytic treatment that consists of dissolving a blood clot by injecting medication into the affected artery.
  • angioplasty, which consists of using a catheter and a balloon to widen the artery, sometimes by inserting a stent into the constant opening of the artery.
  • Endarterectomy, which involves surgically removing the fat deposits in your artery.
  • Atherectomy, where the plaque is removed from your arteries by means of a catheter with a sharp blade at one end.

What are your long-term expectations?

With a cure, you may notice an improvement in your health, but it can take time. Whether your treatment is successful depends on:

  • the seriousness of your situation.
  • how he treated right away.
  • if additional organs have been affected.

Arterial hardening may not be reversed. However, the treatment of the fundamental cause and the maintenance of a healthy way of life and Changes in diet can help slow the process down or keep it from getting worse.

You should follow your physician’s advice to make any necessary lifestyle changes.

You will also need to take suitable medicines to check your condition and avoid complications.

Complications are associated with atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis may cause:

It is also linked to these diseases:

Coronary artery disease (CAD)

Coronary arteries are blood vessels which provide blood and oxygen to your heart muscle. Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs because the coronary arteries become hardened.

Carotid artery disease

Carotid arteries are found in your neck and feed your brain with blood.

These arteries may become compromised if plaque accumulates on their walls. Lack of circulation can decrease the amount of blood and oxygen in the tissues and cells of your brain.

Peripheral artery disease

Your legs, arms and lower body are dependent upon your arteries to provide blood and oxygen to their tissues. Hardened arteries can lead to circulatory problems in these areas of the body.

Kidney disease

The renal arteries carry the blood towards your kidneys. The kidneys flush waste and water out of the bloodstream.

Arterial atherosclerosis can cause renal failure.

What lifestyle changes are helping to deal with and prevent atherosclerosis?

Improving the way of life can help prevent and treat atherosclerosis, especially for persons with type 2 diabetes.

Some useful lifestyle changes are as follows:

  • healthy nutrition with low levels of saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Do not eat foods with fat.
  • add fish to your diet two times per week.
  • Practice a minimum of 75 minutes of energetic exercise or 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.
  • stop smoking if you are familiar with it.
  • weight loss, whether you are overweight or obese.
  • managing stress
  • treating diseases associated with atherosclerosis, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

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