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Atherosclerosis.

Overview. Atherosclerosis or also known as arteriosclerotic vascular disease (AVSD) is a condition where the artery walls thicken due to the collection of fatty material which collects along the walls of arteries. The fatty material may thicken, hardens and will eventually block the arteries. The fatty materials which can block the arteries are called plaques. It will usually affect large and medium-sized arteries. Atherosclerosis is a very dangerous disease. When the arteries had been blocked, the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the organs and other parts of the body will be limited. This condition can lead to serious problems, including heart attack, stroke, or even death.

Causes of Atherosclerosis The exact cause of atherosclerosis is still yet to be known to mankind. Nevertheless, scientists think that the buildup of plaque starts when the lining of the artery is damaged or injured, but they are not sure why and how the artery becomes damaged in the first place. Atherosclerosis is a slow, complex disease that typically starts in childhood and often progresses when people grew older. Damaged to the lining of the artery may caused by Elevated levels of cholesterols and triglyceride in the blood High blood pressure Tobacco smoke Diabetes

There are also numbers of factors that can increase a persons chance of developing atherosclerosis. They are known as atherosclerosis risk factors, and include: Age (45 or over for men, and 55 or over for women) Being male High cholesterol (Hypercholesterolemia) High blood pressure Diabetes Overweight Not exercising Smoking Having close relatives with heart disease at younger ages. Alcohol Air pollution

Age

As we get older, our arteries naturally begin to harden and get narrower, leading to atherosclerosis. High cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of fat that is essential for the functioning of the body. There are two main types of cholesterol:

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is mostly made up of fat, plus a small amount of protein. This type of cholesterol can block the arteries, so it is often referred to as 'bad cholesterol'.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is mostly made up of protein, plus a small amount of fat. This type of cholesterol can help to reduce any blockage in the arteries, so it is often referred to as 'good cholesterol'.

The LDL cholesterol sticks to the artery walls in the form of fatty deposits which, over time, gradually build up, narrowing, or completely blocking, the blood supply. High blood pressure

High blood pressure can cause damage to the lining arteries as it has its own certain pressure. If the pressure exceeded, the artery walls will be damaged. Diabetes

This will only occur with uncontrolled type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The excess glucose in the blood can damaged the wall of artery. Overweight

Those who are overweight have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, tend to have higher levels of cholesterol, and have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Not exercising

Lack of exercise can increased the risk of being overweight and having a high blood pressure. Smoking

Smoking can damage the walls of the arteries. If the arteries are damaged by smoking, blood cells, known as platelets, will form at the site of the damage to try to repair it. This can cause the arteries to narrow. Smoking also decreases the blood's ability to carry oxygen around the body, which increases the chances of a blood clot occurring.

Alcohol

Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol can cause high blood pressure (hypertension) and raised blood cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of developing atherosclerosis and CVD. Most heavy drinkers also tend to have other unhealthy habits, such as smoking, eating a high-fat diet and not taking enough exercise. Family history

The risk of getting atherosclerosis is twice if there is family history of atherosclerosis. Air pollution

Research that was carried out during 2009 suggested that air pollution, in particular traffic pollution, can cause a slight increase in levels of atherosclerosis. Researchers found that people living within 50 metres of a major road had higher levels of atherosclerosis than would otherwise be expected.

Symptoms . Conditions that are known to be caused by atherosclerosis include: Peripheral arterial disease. It is a condition when there is a blockage in the arteries of the limbs. The most common symptoms is when there is pain in the legs. The pain can be felt like a cramp or sensation of dullness or heaviness. The pain usually comes and goes, and got worse when doing exercise. Angina. It is similar to periphery arterial disease only it is caused by reduced blood supply to heart. The most common symptoms is feeling of pain or discomfort in the chest. The pain can feel tight, dull or heavy and usually passes within a few minutes. Aneurysm. If the atherosclerosis weakens the walls of the blood vessels, it can cause aneurysm which is a bulge in the blood vessels. If it grows too large, there is danger that it will rupture which cause fatal internal bleeding and organ damaged. If an aortic aneurysm ruptures, the person will experience a sudden and severe pain in the middle or side of your abdomen (stomach). Symptoms of a ruptured intracranial aneurysm usually begin with a sudden and severe headache, which has been described as like being hit on the head, resulting in a blinding pain. Heart attack. If one of the plaques of the coronary artery ruptures, it could create a blood clot. If the blood clot blocks the blood supply to the heart, it will cause heart attack. Stroke. Blood clot can also block the blood supply to the brain then causing stroke.

Treatments. Prevention is better than cure. Lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, are often the first line of defence in treating atherosclerosis. But sometimes, medical or surgical procedures may be recommended as well. Various drugs can be used: Cholesterol medications. Aggressively lowering the LDL cholesterol can slow or even reverse the build up of fatty deposits in the arteries. Boosting the HDL will help too. Example of drugs known as statins and fibrates. Anti-platelets medications. Examples given as aspirin, to reduce the risk of platelets that will clump at the narrow arteries, form a blood clot and causing blockage. Anticoagulants. Example as heparin or warfarin can help thin the blood to prevent blood from clotting. Blood pressure medications. Medications to control blood pressure such as beta blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and calcium channel blockers. It can help to slow down the progression of atherosclerosis.

Sometimes more aggressive treatment is needed. Angioplasty. In this procedure, the doctor will inserts a long, thin tube (catheter) into the blocked artery. A wire with deflated balloon is passed through the catheter to the narrowed area. The balloon will then inflated, compressing the deposits against the artery walls. A mesh tube is usually left in the artery to help keep the artery open. Angioplasty may also be done with laser technology. Endarterectomy. In some cases, fatty deposits must be surgically removed from the walls of a narrowed artery. Thrombolytic therapy. A clot-dissolving drug may be introduced to a patient with an artery blocked by blood clot in order to break the blood clot. Bypass surgery. A graft bypass may be created by using a vessel from another part of the body. This allows blood to flow around the blocked or narrowed artery.

Healthy lifestyle. Healthy lifestyle may ensure a life of free atherosclerosis. Smoking. Smoking may damage the arteries. By quitting smoking, the progression of atherosclerosis may be slow or even been halted down and reduce the risk of complications. Exercise. Physical activity can also improve circulation and promote development of new blood vessels that form a natural bypass around obstruction. Ideally, we must exercise 30-60 minutes most day of the week. Diet. A heart-healthy diet based on fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium can help to control not only weight but also blood pressure and cholesterol level. Stress. Stress must be managed. Reduce stress as much as possible.