Understanding Atherosclerosis – The Silent Killer

Understanding Atherosclerosis – The Silent Killer

Hospital – surgery team in the operating room or Op of a clinic operating on a patient, perhaps it’s an emergency a assistant holding a cotton swap forceps

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which fatty material builds up along the the wall surfaces of the arteries. Eventually, this build-up leads to hardening and even narrowing of the arteries. It is a silent and progressive problem which blocks the arteries over time. It is this blockage that is responsible for the majority of strokes, heart attacks and peripheral vascular disease.

The atheromatous plaque is made up of 3 features:

  • (i) The atheroma: this is a soft, yellowish material evident in the centre of the plaque.
  • (ii) The underlying areas of cholesterol crystals.
  • (iii) A layer of calcification

Atherosclerosis starts off when high blood pressures, smoking and high cholesterol values damage the endothelial layer of blood vessels. It appears insidiously, without you even knowing it. The cholesterol plague gets larger over time, eventually reducing blood flow on the arteries. This is what causes the pain of angina (chest suffering due to poor coronary artery blood flow) and vascular claudication (pain in the legs after a period of walking due to lower blood supply to the lower limb muscles).

Another common eventualitie is when the soft atheromatous plaque suddenly ruptures. The results in a thrombus (blood clot) formation which instantly blocks the affected vessel, leading to death of the regions supplied by it. This is what usually happens in a heart attack and also stroke.

Atherosclerosis has been found to affect many organ systems, including the heart, brain, intestines, kidneys, and limbs. Atherosclerosis is also sometimes associated with the weakening of the walls for arteries, leading to the formation of aneurysms.

What are the Hazard Factors for Atherosclerosis?

Risk factors for developing atherosclerosis include:

  • • High blood pressure
  • • Diabetes mellitus
  • • Hypercholesterolaemia
  • • Obesity
  • • Increasing age
  • • Smoking
  • • Family history or coronary artery disease
  • • Heavy alcohol intake

Let’s consider the Symptoms of Atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis can be present for many years without inducing any symptoms, surfacing typically in middle aged people today and in the elderly. The kind of symptoms experienced really depend on the situation of the blocked arteries.

The following are a list of conditions caused by atherosclerotic plaque build-up:

  • • Coronary artery disease (angina, heart attacks, sharp cardiac death)
  • • Cerebrovascular disease (stroke)
  • • Kidney disease
  • • Mesenteric artery ischaemia
  • • Peripheral artery disease
  • • Abdominal and Thoracic artery aneurysms

Diagnosis of Atherosclerosis:

Your doctor may suspect that you have atherosclerosis based on your company symptoms and risk factors. Some of the following tests may very well be done to make the diagnosis:

  • • Electrocardiogram:
  • • Angiography
  • • Stress testing
  • • CT angiogram and coronary limescale scoring
  • • Carotid intimal medial thickness measurement by just ultrasound

Management of Atherosclerosis:

Once atheromatous plaques own formed, they are generally there to stay. Medication and lifestyle changes is going to generally help prevent the plaques from getting larger. On occasion, the plaques may regress slightly. The goal of atherosclerosis treatment is to restore as much blood flow as possible to the affected areas. Mr Roberto Casula carried out his studies at Padua University Medical School in Italy. Following that he accomplished his postgraduate surgical training predominantly in the UK, until he was appointed as a consultant in 1998.