It occurs when the arteries increase in thickness.
This makes them more rigid, restricting the blood flow of other organs and tissues of the body. This gradual process, also known as the hardening of the arteries, weakens the arteries and can develop into various organs, most commonly in the heart.
The arteries circulate the blood throughout the body, but when the plaque – fat, cholesterol, and other cellular debris – accumulates in the arterial walls, it is when arteriosclerosis can develop.
Arteriosclerosis can develop into atherosclerosis. This condition can cause heart disease, stroke, circulation problems in the arms and legs, aneurysms that can cause life-threatening internal bleeding, and chronic kidney disease.
Signs and symptoms
As the artery walls gradually thicken and harden, there are usually no symptoms of arteriosclerosis.
Even when the condition worsens in atherosclerosis, mild cases may still show no symptoms.
That’s why regular checkups are essential. As arteriosclerosis progresses, clogged arteries can trigger a heart attack or stroke, with the following symptoms:
- Pain or pressure in the chest (angina)
- Weakness or sudden numbness of arms or legs
- Clumsy speech or difficulty speaking
- Brief loss of vision in one eye
- Fallen facial muscles
- Pain while walking
- High blood pressure
- Renal insufficiency
- If you experience any of these symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.
Early diagnosis is essential for the management of arteriosclerosis. Your doctor can determine if you have arteriosclerosis by performing a physical examination, blood tests, and other diagnostic procedures.
During the physical examination, your doctor can use a stethoscope to listen to your arteries for an abnormal sound called a whooshing murmur. A murmur may indicate poor blood flow due to plaque buildup.
Your doctor can also check the pulses in your extremities. If any pulse is weak or absent, this may signify a blocked artery.
In the same way, your doctor can order diagnostic procedures based on the results of your physical examination. Diagnostic procedures can include
Ankle-brachial index: This test measures the blood pressure in the ankle and arm when the body is at rest.
Some people must perform a stress test. The test will show if you are at increased risk of heart attack or stroke in both cases.
Blood tests: Blood tests check the levels of certain fats, cholesterol, sugar, and proteins in the blood that could indicate heart conditions. It would help if you fasted 9 to 12 hours before drawing blood to get accurate results.
Computed tomography: X-rays and computers can be used to create images of the arteries. This provides a more detailed picture than an ultrasound.
Electrocardiogram (ECG): The recording of electrical signals in your heart may reveal a previous heart attack. This test measures the heart’s electrical activity and can help determine if parts of the heart are enlarged or overworked. The electrical currents of the heart are detected by 12 to 15 electrodes that are attached to the arms, legs, and chest through sticky tape.
Stress test: This is done during the exercise to make the heart work hard and hit fast while performing heart tests. If a patient can not exercise, a medicine is given to increase the heart rate. Used together with an EKG, the test can show changes in heart rate, rhythm, electrical activity, and blood pressure.
Ultrasound: An ultrasound device can measure blood pressure at various points on your arm or leg, which will help the doctor see how quickly blood flows through your arteries and determine if you have any blockages.
Several factors contribute to arteriosclerosis:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Insulin resistance or diabetes
- Smoking or using other tobacco products
- Risk factor’s
- Family history is a risk factor that can contribute to arteriosclerosis.
- People with a family history of arteriosclerosis can develop the condition, even at an early age, and are at a higher risk of developing blood clots that can break.
While the risk factor for inheritance can not be controlled, there are ways in which it can help prevent or possibly reverse arteriosclerosis:
- Practice good heart health: watch what you eat, exercise, and avoid smoking.
- Take your medications as prescribed: If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, take your prescribed medications as directed.
When arteriosclerosis is treated early with healthy lifestyle changes, medications, or medical procedures, the prognosis is good.
Treatment and recovery
The treatment for arteriosclerosis includes a healthy diet, exercise, and medications to control or possibly reverse your condition.
If enlarged blood vessels have been diagnosed, our goal is to develop an individualized treatment plan, so that blood clots do not form.
Depending on your conditions, medications can be used for your treatment, including:
Medications to treat arteriosclerosis are prescribed based on the location of the enlarged blood vessels and other underlying conditions that you may have.
Medicines for cholesterol can protect the arteries of the heart.
Aspirin can prevent platelets from forming blood clots.
Beta-blocking medications can lower your blood pressure and heart rate and decrease chest pain, the risk of heart attack, and irregular heartbeat.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors can lower blood pressure and decrease the chance of a heart attack.
Calcium channel blockers and diuretics (water pills) can lower blood pressure.
A clot-clotting medicine can dissolve blood clots. Your doctor may also prescribe other medications, depending on your needs.
For other risk factors conditions, medications can be prescribed to control diabetes and relieve pain in the legs.
You must monitor your blood pressure and take medications daily as prescribed to reduce the possibility of complications.
If arteriosclerosis is not diagnosed and treated, it can develop into atherosclerosis and cause serious health problems, including:
- Coronary artery disease: Narrow arteries near the heart can cause chest pain, heart attack, or heart failure.
- Peripheral artery disease: Narrow streets in the arms or legs can cause circulation problems that make them less sensitive to heat and cold and can cause gangrene when the tissue dies.
- Carotid artery disease: Narrow arteries near the brain can cause a transient ischemic attack or stroke.
- Aneurysms: A bulge in the wall of a street, if it breaks, can cause a slow leak or a life-threatening internal bleeding.
- Chronic kidney disease: Narrow streets near the kidneys prevent practical kidney function because their lack of blood flow prevents waste from leaving the body.