Atherosclerosis is a condition also known as hardening of the arteries. This condition is behind a number of serious and sometimes fatal health risks, including heart attack and stroke. Atherosclerosis occurs when fatty deposits, known as plaques, build up in the arteries of your heart and narrow the openings. Once the arteries are blocked, it becomes difficult or even impossible for blood and needed oxygen to flow through to the heart. The lack of blood flow and oxygen damage the heart muscle, kidneys, and other vital organs.
Atherosclerosis doesn’t really have any symptoms in the early stages of the disease. As the disease progresses, symptoms depend on the blood vessels that are affected and may include:
Atherosclerosis has many causes. It’s considered a progressive disease, and for some people, it can start as early as childhood. It usually doesn’t pose a significant health risk until later in life, usually in your 50s or 60s. Doctors don’t know the exact cause of atherosclerosis but some possible culprits include:
Dr. Baksh may recommend blood tests and other lab work to evaluate your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Depending on your symptoms and risk factors, she may also consider tests that assess your heart and blood vessels, such as:
Like many health conditions, the most effective treatment for atherosclerosis takes a multifaceted approach. If your disease is significant, you may require referral to a cardiovascular surgeon for further evaluation and treatment.
Dr. Baksh may also recommend lifestyle changes that help reduce your risk of worsening atherosclerosis, such as:
You may also need medication to:
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