Atherosclerosis is a chronic disease in which arteries are affected and lipid and protein metabolism in blood vessels is disturbed. Atherosclerosis progresses over many years and causes cardiovascular diseases: hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, myocardial infarction – and peripheral vascular disease.
Causes of Atherosclerosis
The cause of atherosclerosis is a metabolic disorder of fats, which has a genetic origin. Among the factors that determine the disease, excessive consumption of fatty foods with a high content of cholesterol, sugar, lack of motor activity, high blood pressure, overweight, and diabetes are also noted. As a result of the action of one or more of these factors, a large amount of cholesterol is contained in the blood of a patient with atherosclerosis. It settles on the inner walls of the arteries, forming the so-called cholesterol plaques. As a result, the arteries harden, and their lumen narrows, obstructing blood flow, which leads to tissue starvation. Undernourished organs, especially the heart and brain, are affected.
Symptoms of Atherosclerosis
In the initial stage, atherosclerosis develops asymptomatically. The disease is detected during examination or when complications occur. With damage to the blood vessels of the heart, angina pectoris (heart pain), heart failure, coronary heart disease; if measures are not taken in time, myocardial infarction is possible. Symptoms of cerebral arteriosclerosis are dizziness, especially with sudden changes in body position, noise in the head, memory impairment; when a cerebral artery ruptures, a brain hemorrhage occurs – a stroke. Symptoms of abdominal arteriosclerosis include abdominal pain, in the upper half, usually after eating, bloating, belching, constipation.
Atherosclerosis of the vessels of the lower extremities is characterized by paroxysmal pain in the legs when walking, while when the pain stops, they subside (intermittent claudication). In addition, chilliness of the legs, pallor of the skin when cooling is noted.
Diagnosis of Atherosclerosis
When diagnosing atherosclerosis, its presence is established, the localization of atherosclerotic plaques is determined, and the degree of damage to internal organs is assessed. To detect lipid metabolism disorders, blood is examined for total cholesterol and its fractions – high and low density lipoproteins. To determine whether blood circulation in the vessels is disturbed, angiography is used – a study with the introduction of a contrast medium into the blood, ultrasound dopplerography. According to indications, other more complex studies can be used.
The treatment of atherosclerosis is complex. It includes a diet with the restriction of animal fats and foods containing cholesterol, the rejection of bad habits, in particular smoking, physical activity, the normalization of work and rest, as well as the use of medicines: lowering blood cholesterol, antiplatelet drugs (prevent blood clots ), beta-blockers of calcium channel blockers, diuretics (lower blood pressure), angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (inhibit the progression of atherosclerosis). If the symptoms of atherosclerosis could not be eliminated with the help of drugs, surgical treatment is performed – angioplasty, bypass surgery, endarterectomy (removal of a part of the vessel wall with a cholesterol plaque).