Your body needs varied nutrients for proper growth and development. These include carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. Your body receives all these through your regular diet and the drinks that you consume. Regularly consuming a diet high on carbohydrates means that you obtain a lot of calories. While your body only uses a certain amount of calories, any excess is stored in form of triglycerides within fat cells. Without any physical activity such as exercises to burn the excess calories, there is bound to be a buildup of the same with increased levels of triglycerides in your bloodstream. This situation can be compounded by high levels of cholesterol (produced in your liver and available in your bloodstream).
High levels of triglycerides and cholesterol have a negative impact on your arteries (blood vessels). The excess amounts of triglycerides and cholesterol in your bloodstream get deposited in your coronary arteries (that lead to the heart), building up within the arteries to form a mass or plaques, a condition referred to as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis leads to narrowing of your arteries, which in effect leads to blood clots along the arteries, reduced oxygen to your heart and reduced blood flow into the heart. The three effects can cause either stroke, angina (chest pain) or heart attacks in case the plaques rupture and enter your heart.
Symptoms of Atherosclerosis
You can develop atherosclerosis at any age, right from adolescence with the risk of developing it increasing as you age. The buildup of plaques is not restricted to your coronary arteries. The deposition can occur in blood vessels leading to your arms in which case the condition is referred to as atheroma. The same can also be in the arteries leading to your legs, causing peripheral artery occlusive disease, a condition associated with reduced blood flow to the legs. In most cases, atherosclerosis does not present any symptom at all. You only come to realize that you have the condition once you have a heart attack, which can result in death within an hour if you do not seek any medical attention. However, certain experiences should alert you on the possibility of having the condition. Because of reduced oxygen and blood flow to your heart, you may or may not experience dizziness, fast heartbeat and fatigue even while relaxed and resting.
Risk Factors (Causes) for Atherosclerosis
Certain factors have been identified as risk factors in the occurrence of atherosclerosis. Such include
- A family history of the condition (heredity)
- High Triglyceride and Cholesterol levels
- High Blood Pressure
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Unhealthy diet amongst other factors
Diagnosis & Treatment of Atherosclerosis
Diagnosis of atherosclerosis is through varied methods including angiograpy, arterial stress testing, coronary calcium scoring by CT, intravascular ultrasound, lipoprotein analysis and triglyceride/cholesterol tests.
It is a fact that treating heart-related ailments cannot only be difficult but expensive as well. It is also a fact that no medication can cure atherosclerosis or make prevent arteries from becoming narrow. If diagnosed early, your doctor is likely to prescribe cholesterol-lowering medications to avoid further deposition on the arteries and prevent progression of the atherosclerosis. Your doctor may also prescribe low-dose aspirin to prevent blood clots. Satin medications such as rosuvastatin have shown positive results in the treatment of atherosclerosis. Dietary supplements of vitamins B3, C and K have also produced positive results in research undertaken so far. In extreme cases of atherosclerosis, surgery is usually the only option. Such can be undertaken through balloon dilation, bypass operation or endarterectomy (scrapping of arterial plaques).
Atherosclerosis condition is a serious health risk and it is only important that you undertake measures to prevent its occurrence. Even though going for all the necessary tests can be expensive, simple triglyceride and cholesterol tests should serve as an indication of atherosclerosis.