With age, arteries lose their elasticity and thicken. When this phenomenon is accompanied by fatty deposits (cholesterol), it is called atherosclerosis.
These plates which gradually organized, harden, thicken, reduce the diameter of the arteries, which reduces or interferes with the passage of blood and clog the arteries. These deposits can also promote the formation of clots that can migrate and block an artery.
The fat deposits sit on all the arteries, especially the abdominal aorta, coronary arteries, the internal carotid arteries that allow blood supply to the brain, the cerebral arteries and leg arteries (femoral and iliac).
Atherosclerosis is by far the leading cause of death worldwide since it is the cause of most cardiovascular diseases. Men are more exposed than women.
There are several causes:
- Excess cholesterol in the blood (hypercholesterolemia)
- Obesity, a high-fat diet, diabetes
- Smoking: over 10 cigarettes / day, a factor that aggravates atherosclerosis. Nicotine promotes the sudden narrowing of the arteries and the smoke decreases the oxygen supply to tissues.
- Stress: it releases adrenaline, causing spasms of the arteries.The repeated stress can induce hypertension, which promotes atherosclerosis.
- Physical inactivity: lack of physical activity reduces the resistance of the arteries.
- Oral contraception: it accelerates the formation of atherosclerotic plaques
- Genetics: more common in men than in women, some people have inherited a plot to promote the emergence of this disease.
- High blood pressure: it weakens the arterial system, causes or aggravates atherosclerosis.
The disease is progressive and disorders usually appear from 40 years old when the critical level of blockage of the artery is reached (70 to 80% blocked) and that the bodies are running out of oxygen.Symptoms vary with the artery affected and if the obstruction was gradual or sudden. The person may feel simple leg pain, or angina (chest pain). Other accidents can be transitory warning signs, such as small strokes that cause transient disturbances.
Sometimes there are no symptoms before the accident. The sudden blockage of an artery can cause a heart attack, stroke, acute ischemia with the key gangrene affecting the toe, foot or leg ...
It is possible to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis by controlling his diabetes, his cholesterol and blood pressure. It is also important to a healthy lifestyle by not smoking, regular physical activity (walking, jogging and swimming seems to be the most appropriate), adopting a diet rich in vegetables and low in fat (especially fatSaturated and trans fats), by maintaining a stressful life, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting alcohol consumption.
In the presence of symptoms that may suggest the blocking of an artery, the doctor will ask certain examinations. The three most practiced are:
- Coronary angiography: it is a radiological examination is administered in which a contrast agent to detect a problem in the arteries that supply the heart. This review is suggested when the person has a chest pain.
- The electrocardiogram at rest and sometimes the effort: that records the heart's electrical activity, heart rate and blood pressure during exercise.
- Doppler ultrasound of the major vessels (carotid, aorta or lower limb).
A blood sample is required to determine the cholesterol or the presence of diabetes. Similarly, several measures of resting blood pressure can establish the presence of hypertension.
The main treatment is to eliminate cholesterol. It is then necessary to adopt a healthy diet (avoid animal fats and saturated fats in milk, butter or cold cuts, choose fish, poultry, vegetables) and to perform more exercise (effective on both overweight, diabetes, too much cholesterol and blood pressure). These habits can lower cholesterol in the blood.
If the plan is not enough to reduce the blood cholesterol to normal, medication is prescribed as cholesterol-lowering statins or fibrates. Of low-dose aspirin may be prescribed to prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Will be asked to stop smoking and to minimize the hypertension and diabetes.
Untreated, atherosclerosis can be responsible for myocardial infarction and other life-threatening stroke.
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