Have you recently returned from the doctor who has told you that you suffer from arteriosclerotic heart disease? Learn more about arteriosclerosis here.
Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with heart disease or atherosclerosis? If so, you may be significantly concerned. Fortunately, the fact that your doctor caught the condition now is an excellent sign, as you can begin taking steps to correct the issue. This article contains everything you need to know about arteriosclerotic heart disease.
What is Arteriosclerosis?
Arteriosclerosis is a disease that causes your arteries to harden and narrow. It is particularly concerning because it blocks the arteries slowly over time, thus making it known throughout the medical industry as a “silent killer.” Those with the disease may find it difficult to notice any warning signs. However, it’s imperative that they do so, as arteriosclerotic heart disease causes:
- Heart Attacks
- Peripheral Vascular Disease
The three types of peripheral vascular diseases that arteriosclerosis causes are coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, and peripheral artery disease. Coronary artery disease occurs when plaque is stable in the heart. When this plaque bursts, blot begins to clot, causing the heart muscle to die. This is commonly known as a heart attack.
The cerebrovascular disease occurs when there is plaque buildup in the brain. Much like with coronary artery disease, the cerebrovascular disease can cause a rupture of an artery in the brain, causing clotting that leads to a stroke. Cerebrovascular diseases could also cause temporary blockages, otherwise known as transient ischemic attacks.
Lastly, peripheral artery disease is a problem commonly associated with arteriosclerosis. When this occurs, the arteries in your legs narrow, which results in poor circulation. This could not only make walking painful, but it could also slow the rate at which wounds heal. If you suffer from severe cases of arteriosclerosis in the legs, you could potentially require a peripheral artery disease.
What Causes Arteriosclerosis?
Everyone’s arteries have a thin layer of cells known as the endothelium. The endothelium is a critical component when it comes to the health of the arteries, as it ensures that our arteries remain smooth and tone. This ensures that blood continues to flow smoothly throughout the body. When someone suffers from arteriosclerosis, the endothelium is damaged.
Things such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking cause damage to the endothelium. When bad cholesterol, such as LDL, crosses paths with health endothelium, nothing happens. But when it crosses paths with endothelium that’s damaged, our white blood cells end up trying to digest the LDL. The byproduct creates plaque, which builds up in the arteries over time.
Plaque is very sticky. The more of it in your bloodstream, the more likely it is to create a blockage in your arteries. This is what causes arteriosclerotic heart disease. As the blockage grows, so too does your risk for arteriosclerosis. Early on, in those who are middle-aged, it’s nearly impossible to pick up on any signs that the blockage is occurring.
However, as we age and the plaque builds more and more, so too do the symptoms associated with the disease. More significant blockages can choke off blood flow, which can make exercise difficult. This can cause pain. Unfortunately, if patients wait until they feel pain, it may be too late to address the arteriosclerosis. At this point, blockages could rupture at any time, resulting in a potential death.
The Effects of Arteriosclerosis
Arteriosclerosis can affect the body in different ways. For example, arteriosclerosis can impact your heart arteries, where it will eventually cause chest pressure or pain. However, if the disease affects the arteries that lead to the brain, the effects could be much more noticeable. For example, sufferers may experience numbness or weakness in their arms or legs along with slurred speech or loss of vision.
If you were to suffer from arteriosclerosis in the arms or legs, you could suffer from leg pain when walking. The disease could also impact the arteries leading to your kidneys, which could result in kidney failure or high blood pressure. Again, if you begin noticing these symptoms, it may be too late, as you have likely already suffered from the disease for years.
The way the plaque from the arteriosclerosis behaves can also play a role in the symptoms in which you see. For example, some plaque remains on the artery walls, where the plaque grows to a particular shape and stops. This plaque often does not restrict or block blood flow, so it may not even cause symptoms in individuals. More people may suffer from this than realized.
Additionally, the plaque can grow in a way that gradually slows the path of the blood flow. The plaque will continue to grow over time until it causes significant blockages. This may cause pain or headaches when you begin to exert yourself. This is the type of plaque buildup that sufferers are most likely to notice.
The last type of plaque buildup occurs when the plaques suddenly rupture because of a full blockage. When blood cannot pass through an artery, the vessel will expand until the plaque bursts. Before the plaque bursts, a blood clot will have built. This clot will then travel through the arteries, eventually causing a heart attack or stroke.
Who Suffers From Arteriosclerosis?
As we age, the likelihood of suffering from arteriosclerosis increases. Practically everyone suffers from the disease. The primary concern, therefore, is to the degree to which you suffer from arteriosclerosis. We begin suffering from the disease early on in our lives. For example, an old study of former soldiers in the Vietnam War found that nearly 75 percent had early forms of arteriosclerosis.
In recent years, as our diets and lifestyles have gotten even worse, there’s an even higher chance that younger people suffer from the disease. A study from 2001 found that more than half had some form of the disease. Furthermore, as we age, the condition becomes much more prominent. Approximately 85 percent of those greater than 50 had signs of the disease.
Treating Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease
One study showed that, on average, 60 percent of deaths related to arteriosclerosis were sudden. This lends credibility to the fact that this disease is a silent killer. For that reason, it’s imperative that people visit the doctor. Less than a quarter of those who passed away from arteriosclerosis had seen a doctor within a week before death.
Since we all likely suffer from arteriosclerosis, you should consider visiting a doctor immediately. Your doctor can evaluate your lifestyle and run various blood tests to determine if you have arteriosclerosis and how severe the disease is. Your doctor will likely look for a weak or absent pulse, decreased blood pressure in an affected limb, and bruits that occur over the arteries.
Your doctor can then prescribe medication to help reduce the effects of the disease. If necessary, your doctor could also perform surgery to help clear your arteries of plaque and reduce the impact of buildup. Additionally, you can make some of the changes below to help decrease your risk. These lifestyle changes could be incredibly beneficial to your health.
Researchers estimate that you get approximately three to four hours of moderate exercise weekly. You can choose to divide this into segments of 30 minutes per day an hour every couple of days. The training need not be strenuous, as studies have shown that merely walking at a rate of two miles per hour could increase your heart rate and improve your cardiovascular health.
You should seek to implement exercise changes into your routine slowly. Begin by walking 30 minutes a day. After a while, you can add a strength training routine to your workout regimen. If you try to do too much too soon, it will be quite difficult for you to stick to the plan in the long term. Exercising to address arteriosclerosis is about making long-term lifestyle changes.
Smoking is known as a direct contributor behind arteriosclerosis. Those who smoke increase their risk of the disease significantly. Smoking is known to cause inflammation, which can cause plaque buildup directly. Additionally, smoking can stiffen your arteries, which is also another factor leading to arteriosclerosis.
Furthermore, smoking can cut down on the good cholesterol in your body and elevate the levels of bad cholesterol. Bad cholesterol is what causes plaque buildup. Smoking can also thicken your blood, making it more difficult to pass through narrow arteries. Your organs could suffer oxygen loss as a result. Lastly, secondhand smoke could also contribute to arteriosclerosis.
Change Your Diet
Our diets could also contribute to arteriosclerosis. The typical American diet is high in fatty meats and processed foods, both of which are known to result in heart disease. You should instead focus on a vegetarian diet that is high in fibrous foods. Eggs, fruits, and vegetables are all beneficial. Instead of eating pasta and bread, consider other carbs such as sweet potatoes.
Much like working out, changing your diet requires implementation. Many find it challenging to cut processed carbs and sugar from their diet, considering they have been a staple for such an extended period. Instead, look to remove one thing at a time, knowing that doing so could prove to be incredibly beneficial to your health.