- Mar 30, 2007
Atherosclerosis can affect any artery in the body, including arteries in the heart, brain, arms, legs, and pelvis. As a result, different diseases may develop based on which arteries are affected.
- Coronary artey disease: (CAD). This is when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart. When blood flow to your heart is reduced or blocked, it can lead to chest pain and heart attack. CAD also is called heart disease, and it's the leading cause of death in the United States.
- Carotid artey disease: This happens when plaque builds up in the carotid arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your brain. When blood flow to your brain is reduced or blocked, it can lead to stroke.
- Peripherial artial disease: (PAD). This occurs when plaque builds up in the major arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the legs, arms, and pelvis. When blood flow to these parts of your body is reduced or blocked, it can lead to numbness, pain, and sometimes dangerous infections.
The main treatment for atherosclerosis is lifestyle changes. You also may need medicines and medical procedures. These, along with ongoing medical care, can help you live a healthier life.
The cause of atherosclerosis isn’t known. However, certain conditions may raise your chances of developing it. These conditions are known as risk factors. You can control some risk factors, such as lack of physical activity, smoking, and unhealthy eating. Others you can’t control, such as age and family history of heart disease.
[FONT="]he exact cause of atherosclerosis isn't known. However, studies show that atherosclerosis is a slow, complex disease that may start in childhood. It develops faster as you age.[/FONT]
Atherosclerosis may start when certain factors damage the inner layers of the arteries. These factors include:
- High amounts of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood
- High blood pressure
- High amounts of sugar in the blood due to insulin resistance or diabetes
Over time, the plaque may crack. Blood cells called platelets (PLATE-lets) clump together to form blood clots where the cracks are. This narrows the arteries more and worsens angina (chest pain) or causes a heart attack.
Researchers continue to look at why atherosclerosis develops. They hope to find answers to such questions as:
- Why and how do the arteries become damaged?
- How does plaque develop and change over time?
- Why does plaque break open and lead to clo
If you have atherosclerosis, a doctor, internist, or general practitioner may handle your care. Your doctor may send you to other health care specialists if you need expert care. These specialists may include:
- A cardiologist (a doctor who specializes in treating people with heart problems). You may see a cardiologist if you (CAD).
- A vascular specialist (a doctor who specializes in treating people with blood vessel problems). You may see a vascular specialist if you have (PAD).
- A neurologist (a doctor who specializes in treating people with disorders of the nervous system). You may see a neurologist if you've had a stroke due to carotid artery disease.
Angioplasty is a procedure to open blocked or narrowed coronary arteries. Angioplasty can improve blood flow to the heart, relieve chest pain, and possibly prevent a heart attack. Sometimes a small mesh tube called a stent is placed in the artery to keep it open after the procedure.
Coronary artry bypass grafting (CABG) is a type of surgery. In CABG, arteries or veins from other areas in your body are used to bypass (that is, go around) your narrowed coronary arteries. CABG can improve blood flow to your heart, relieve chest pain, and possibly prevent a heart attack.