Atherosclerosis Formation and Implications
Atherosclerosis is a condition in which the arteries harden and become narrow owing to an excessive buildup of cholesterol, cellular waste, calcium and other fatty substances. Together, these substances that form a layer around the walls of the arteries are called Atherosclerotic Plaque.
Atherosclerosis formation is a slow and silent disease that shows no signs or symptoms in the beginning. It is only when the buildup starts causing complications that it is noticed. In many cases, Atherosclerosis formation starts early in an individual’s life; gradually building up over the years and finally reaching a point that serious conditions (mentioned below) can result from it.
To understand the implication and prognosis of Atherosclerosis formation, it is important to first take a look at the natural function and condition of the arteries. It is common knowledge that arteries carry oxygenated blood from the heart to various other organs of the body. These vessels have an inner lining called the Endothelium. The endothelium is a layer of cells that ensures that the inner walls of the arteries are smooth- thus, facilitating the flow of blood.
If the endothelium gets damaged, foreign particles enter the artery walls. As cholesterol, LDL, debris and fatty compounds collect, the body reacts by sending defensive white blood cells to the site of invasion. While these cells ingest and destroy the foreign compounds, the rate at which they collect increases with time. Consequently, the path for blood to flow seamlessly is hindered.
Behavior of Atherosclerosis Formation
There are many stages of Atherosclerosis Formation, which is why this condition is not diagnosed till a patient is in middle or old age. By this time, the blockade and collection of plaque has reached a level that is dangerous for the body. When enough plaque has gathered around the artery walls, a number of things can happen:
1. Atherosclerosis formation stays within the arteries. It collects over time, but the bulk stays inside the vessel and does not block blood from flowing through. Such an Atherosclerosis formation may never be diagnosed.
2. Atherosclerotic plaque grows slowly, reaching a size and shape that affects the flow of blood. As a result of the blockade, a patient starts to feel symptoms like pain in the legs or chest.
3. Atherosclerotic plaque rupture is the worst condition in which the blockade not only hinders blood flow, it forms a clot.
Strokes – A Dangerous Prognosis of Atherosclerosis
It is the third condition highlighted above that Atherosclerosis formation can become a fatal disease. A blood clot in any part of the body is a sign of danger because it hinders the reach of oxygen to the tissues and muscles. If the plaque rupture forms a clot in any of the arteries in the brain, or leading to it, the brain suffers strokes.
Being without oxygenated blood for even a few seconds can be way too damaging for the sensitive tissues inside the brain. These tissues choke and stop functioning. When the same happens to a considerably large part of the brain, stroke can cause irreparable damage. According to research half of all strokes are a result of Atherosclerosis formation.
Prognosis of atherosclerosis can be judged by the appearance of various symptoms. Since the arteries in the body are in the form of branches, each connected to common points, a blockade in one can easily lead to congestion in the others. Moreover, this interconnection can result in a lot of symptoms elsewhere in the body; which is why the atherosclerosis pathophysiology is more dangerous than many other ailments.
If and when atherosclerosis symptoms start to show, physicians watch out for the following:
• Pain in the chest
• Shortness of breath
• Fatigue and drowsiness
• Confusion of surroundings
• Numbness of the facial features
• Pain in the limbs
• Loss of balance
• Headaches that are sudden and severe
• Problems with vision
• Trouble understanding and processing information
• Trouble speaking
Atherosclerosis Treatment and Diagnosis
If the atherosclerosis symptoms have started to show, the condition is easy to diagnose. Doctors first check for a weak pulse because it indicates improper blood pressure and flow. Another signal that indicates a problem with the inner walls of the arteries is slow wound healing. This means that blood circulation has been affected.
Atherosclerosis formation is diagnosed using the following means:
• A blood test to indicate the levels of LDL, cholesterol and other substances.
• A Doppler Ultrasound, which uses sound waves. These waves are projected in the body and their bouncing back frequency points to a blockade in the arteries.
• Stress tests to see normal blood pressure ranges.
• CT scans and MRI are primary, and comprehensive, tests that are done to get a pictorial view of Atherosclerosis formation and the condition of the arteries inside the brain.
Atherosclerosis treatment options can slow down the build up of plaque. It is generally believed that once a blockade forms, it stays in the arteries even if it does not pose a risk of a stroke (unless surgically removed). With treatment, the plaque growth can be stopped, slowed down and at most, eroded from the arteries.
Lifestyle Changes: Non invasive treatment methods include a complete change in the patient’s lifestyle. If he smokes, he has to quit smoking at all costs because the debris in Atherosclerosis formation is usually a result of smoke particulars and dead white blood cells. Changes in diet have to be implemented that include a large chunk of the nutrition coming from healthy sources like greens and fruits. Intake of bad fats and cholesterol have to be minimized to a great extent to reduce the fat content in Atherosclerosis formation.
Moreover, exercise is a must for those who are at risk of developing complications because of atherosclerosis. Exercise reduces total body fat percentage and keeps the brain and heart in good shape.
Medicines: Atherosclerosis formation can also be treated with medicines. Statins, a category of medication used for atherosclerosis formation, are prescribed to patients whose plaque growth is considerable. These lower the concentration of cholesterol in the blood. Anteplatelets are also used to prevent blood from clotting and Angiotensins lower blood pressure.
Surgery: Severe cases of atherosclerosis formation are treated with surgery that removes the blockade from the arteries. Such procedures include Angioplasty.