How to Prevent Artherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis, sometimes called arteriosclerosis, describes the build up of fatty substances in the artery walls, causing them to harden and become less flexible, eventually even block arteries completely.

This causes blood flow to the heart to slow down or stop completely. This will eventually result in shortness of breath, chest pains (stable angina), heart attack, as well as other symptoms. Pieces of plaques (the hardened fatty substances that build up on artery wall) can break apart and flow into the blood stream.

Blood clots can also form around plaque deposits. When these blood clots get carried by the blood steam into the lungs, heart or brain, it can cause a stroke or heart attack or pulmonary embolism.

Symptoms of atherosclerosis

Symptoms are not easily detected. It is only when arteries have become blocked and blood flow has slowed down that symptoms can be felt of detected. Depending on which artery is blocked, a person may experience chest or leg pains.

Treatments for atherosclerosis

Doctors usually suggest a change in lifestyle. This means a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, weight loss and exercise.

Medications, such as blood thinners (to prevent blood clot) are prescribed. There are also available medications to lower cholesterol and keep blood pressure at a normal level.

Atherosclerosis can lead to coronary heart disease. For those with CHD that do not cause symptoms, medication or angioplasty with stenting maybe the most appropriate treatment. Angioplasty is a procedure where narrowed or blocked blood vessels of the heart are opened. Angioplasty can help reduce angina or other symptoms of CHD and can be a life-saving procedure if you are having a heart attack.

Prevention

A change in lifestyle can help prevent atherosclerosis. It is most advisable to live healthy now, not when symptoms are already felt or detected. Include the following in your lifestyle change:

  • Diet should be low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-salt.
  • Eat fish at least twice a week. Do not fry. For non fish-lovers try fish oil supplements.
  • 30 minutes of exercise daily. If overweight, 60-90 minutes daily. Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Quit smoking.
  • 1-2 drinks of wine or alcohol is healthy and may help reduce the risks of cardiovascular events.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take aspirin. Aspirin can help reduce risks of heart disease and stroke.
  • Know your family’s medical history.
  • Work closely with your doctor in bringing blood pressure levels down. Take prescribed medications and follow closely your doctor’s recommendations for diabetes treatment.