What Is Atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is narrowing and thickening of the arteries due to the buildup of plaque on artery walls. Plaque buildup occurs when the cell layer on the inner wall of the artery ( endothelium ) in charge of keeping the flow of blood flow is damaged. The plaque that causes atherosclerosis consists of cholesterol, fatty substances, calcium, and fibrin (substances in the blood). Plaque can be carried off the bloodstream causing blockage, or forming a blood clot on the surface of the plaque. This causes the circulation of blood and oxygen from the arteries to the body organs are inhibited.

Although classified as a heart disorder, atherosclerosis can actually occur in arteries in any part of the body, such as the brain, kidneys, or legs, and can lead to health problems in these parts. Occurrence of atherosclerosis can begin from childhood and develops slowly. New harmful symptoms appear when the age of the patient reaches 50 or 60 years. However, this disease can be avoided and overcome by changes in lifestyle.

Symptoms of Atherosclerosis
Symptoms of new atherosclerosis will be felt when the arteries have been very narrow and inhibit blood circulation to the tissues or organs of the body. The symptoms that occur depend on the location of the atherosclerosis, including:
  • Atherosclerosis of the hands and feet; cause pain during walking (claudication).
  • Atherosclerosis of the kidneys; causing kidney failure and high blood pressure.
  • Atherosclerosis of the heart; causing chest pain (angina).
  • Aerosklerosis in the brain; resulting in weak or stiff hands and feet, speech impediment, weakened facial muscles, or temporary loss of vision in one eye.

What causes atherosclerosis?
The exact cause of atherosclerosis is unknown, but the disease begins when there is damage or injury to the inner lining of the arteries (endothelium). Such damage may be caused by:
  • Cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and high blood pressure.
  • Diabetes or insulin resistance.
  • Diseases that cause inflammation, such as arthritis , infection, or lupus .
  • Smoking habit.
  • Obesity .
In addition to the above causes, a person who has a family member with a history of atherosclerosis is also suspected of a high risk of suffering from the same disease.

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Diagnosis of Atherosclerosis
Diagnosis may begin with a physical examination. The occurrence of circulatory disorders can be characterized by a weak pulse, low blood pressure in the affected limbs, and wound healing. The results of the physical examination need to be strengthened with some further examination which includes:
  • Blood test, to see cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
  • Comparison of blood pressure index of the legs and arms , to check the blockage of arteries in the hands and feet.
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG), to examine cardiac activity that may show evidence of previous heart attacks.
  • Doppler ultrasound, to see the presence of artery blockage with sound waves.
  • Stress test or treadmill examination , to check the electrical activity of the heart and blood pressure during physical activity.
  • Scanning, including magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) and CT s can to check the condition of arteries.
  • Angiogram and cardiac catheterization, ie examination of the condition of the heart arteries by injecting a contrast agent (dye) in the artery so that it can be seen through the photo R

Treatment of Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis handlers can be done through three things, namely lifestyle changes, medications, and surgical procedures.

Changes in everyday lifestyle are the main things that need to be done. Patients are encouraged to exercise more frequently to improve heart and blood vessel health, and reduce consumption of foods with high levels of fat and cholesterol.

In addition to lifestyle changes, drug administration is also important to prevent arterosclerosis getting worse. Among others are:
  • Medication for preventing blood clots that block the arteries. Medications that may be given are antiplatelets and anticoagulants, such as aspirin.
  • Blood pressure-lowering drugs. Possible drugs include beta blockers , calcium channel blockers, and diuretics to increase urine flow rate
  • A lowering of bad cholesterol (LDL) drugs, such as statins and fibric acids.
  • Angiostensin enzyme inhibitor (ACE inhibitor s ). These drugs can alleviate the development of atherosclerosis by lowering blood pressure and preventing artery narrowing.
  • Other medicines to control the medical conditions that cause atherosclerosis, such as diabetes drugs.
In cases of severe atherosclerosis, surgical procedures need to be performed. Among others are:
  • Bypass surgery, to overcome clogging or narrowing of the arteries. This operation is done by passing clogged blood vessels by using blood vessels from other body parts or hoses made from synthetics to keep blood flowing.
  • Fibrinolytic therapy to overcome clogged arteries due to blood clots.
  • Installation of the tube (stent) and angioplasty . The purpose of this procedure is the same as bypass surgery , ie to overcome constriction or blockage of the arteries. In this procedure, the doctor will install two catheters and a small tube to keep the artery open.
  • Endarterectomy to remove fatty deposits in narrowed artery walls.
  • Arterectomy to remove plaque and arteries.

Complications of Atherosclerosis
Complications that can occur due to atherosclerosis are:
  • A brief ischemic attack (mild stroke / TIA) and stroke, when atherosclerosis occurs in an artery near the brain organ.
  • Gangrene (dead tissue), when atherosclerosis occurs in the hands and feet resulting in impaired blood circulation.
  • Chronic kidney disease, when atherosclerosis occurs in an artery that leads to the kidneys.
  • Aneurysm or dilation of blood vessels in the artery wall.
  • Heart attacks, heart failure, and angina , when atherosclerosis occurs in the heart arteries.

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