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    In the United States, over 600,000 individuals die annually from heart disease. Atherosclerosis contributes to many of these deaths. This specific disease is a chronic inflammatory heart disease in which the arteries become narrowed and blocked with plaque. It is a common condition that can lead to coronary artery disease, heart attack, or stroke. If you are concerned that you may have atherosclerosis, it is vital to seek treatment from a healthcare professional. There are many treatments available that can help improve your symptoms and help prevent further health problems.


    What is atherosclerosis?

    Atherosclerosis occurs when excessive plaque, made primarily of cholesterol and fat, builds up in the heart’s arteries, which causes the artery to thicken or become rigid. Blood, which carries oxygen and nutrients to the body, must flow through arteries, which cannot happen when plaque accumulates. Atherosclerosis is a significant health predicament.

    According to the NIH, “Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the arteries and is the underlying cause of about 50% of all deaths in westernized society. “

    This fact does not mean that death certificates have atherosclerosis written on 50% of heart-related deaths but that the condition is one thing that led to others, which in turn caused death.

    According to American Heart Association cardiologists, when atherosclerosis occurs, “plaque may partially or totally block blood flow through large- or medium-sized arteries in the heart, brain, pelvis, legs, arms or kidneys.”

    Atherosclerosis can lead to the following conditions:

    • Angina, or chest pain
    • Carotid artery disease
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • Coronary heart disease
    • Peripheral artery disease, or PAD


    Ultimately, atherosclerosis causes death in many cases.

    Anyone can develop plaque in their arteries, though some individuals are more at risk for developing it and having heart-related problems due to the build-up. And, unfortunately, many people don’t know that they have this problem until it’s too late.


    Who is at risk for atherosclerosis?

    People who are young and old, healthy or not, can develop atherosclerosis in the heart arteries. Those who live an unhealthy lifestyle are much more at risk because of excess fat and cholesterol, but even people who have a healthy weight and eat well can have issues with cholesterol.

    Common risk factors include:

    • Obesity
    • Diabetes (Type I)
    • High blood pressure
    • High triglyceride level
    • High cholesterol
    • Smoking
    • Genetics
    • Diet high in saturated fats
    • Physical inactivity


    But again, anyone has a risk of plaque buildup and the loss of an oxygen-rich blood supply, which is why it can be a silent killer.


    Symptoms of atherosclerosis

    Atherosclerosis can slowly build up in the arteries over a series of decades. However, sometimes it can occur suddenly.

    An article from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute states that symptoms tend to appear when the body needs oxygen, such as when under emotional or physical stress. They list these symptoms as the most common to look out for.

    • Chest pain, cold sweats, dizziness, extreme tiredness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, nausea, and weakness
    • Pain, aching, heaviness, or cramping in the legs worsens when active and lessens at rest.
    • Problems with thinking and memory, weakness or numbness on one side of the body or face, and vision trouble are all early symptoms of vertebral artery disease. Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a more severe symptom called a mini-stroke.
    • Severe pain following meals, weight loss, and diarrhea are symptoms of mesenteric artery Ischemia of the intestines.
    • Erectile dysfunction (ED) is an early warning sign that a man may be at higher risk for atherosclerosis and its complications.


    This might be a lot to process, especially since there are so many symptoms to look for. But it is wise to be aware and understand when your body feels off so you can seek treatment.


    Treatment of atherosclerosis

    Thankfully with the technology and medications available, atherosclerosis can diminish or go away altogether.

    One primary thing to do is to prevent atherosclerosis from the get-go. Be proactive about your health, stay active, eat right, and make other smart health decisions. But, if you are one of many who already have atherosclerosis, various treatment options can save your life.

    After your diagnosis, which can occur after undergoing one or more outpatient tests, your cardiologist will recommend the most appropriate treatment for your level of plaque buildup.

    Doctors commonly prescribe statins, aspirin, and high blood pressure medications for this condition. Surgery is also an option, depending on the severity. Angioplasty, stent placement, and an endarterectomy, among other life-saving procedures, are available.

    Regardless of treatment, it’ll be time to return to or start living a healthy lifestyle.



    Atherosclerosis is a severe, deadly condition if not treated correctly or in time. It is important to be aware of the risk factors and symptoms associated with this disease to get help and treatment as soon as possible. If you think you might have atherosclerosis or are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, please see a cardiologist immediately. Early detection and treatment are key to living a long and healthy life despite this condition.

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