Atherosclerosis is a condition that develops when a sticky substance known as plaque builds up in the inner lining of the arteries. Plaque consists of cellular waste, fatty substances, cholesterol, fibrin, and calcium. The presence of plaque results in the thickening and hardening of the arteries, thereby increasing the chance of fatal strokes and other cardiac problems. Atherosclerosis takes time to develop as the disease may start as early as childhood, especially when the child doesn’t have a good diet. However, the condition could progress rapidly and cause several problems.
Doctors still couldn’t agree on what causes the condition, but they know that plaque buildup plays a significant part in the illness. The buildup or thickening of plaque in the inner walls of the arteries causes the blood flow and oxygen supply to diminish, reducing the supply to vital organs and the body’s extremities.
Health experts identified several risk factors when it comes to atherosclerosis. These factors include high triglyceride and cholesterol levels, hypertension, obesity, type-1 diabetes, a high saturated fat diet, excessive smoking, and physical inactivity. Therefore, doctors will have to conduct a thorough medical history workup and physical exam to diagnose a person who has atherosclerosis.
Here are some of the symptoms of atherosclerosis.
One of the more common symptoms of atherosclerosis is angina. Angina is the medical term used to refer to chest pain caused by diminished blood flow to the heart muscles. On its own, angina isn’t fatal but indicates an elevated risk for stroke and heart attack. However, doctors say that lifestyle changes and treatment can manage the recurrence of angina and lower the risk of cardiac problems.
People who experience angina describe the condition as having a heavy weight on their chest. Doctors say that the feeling is akin to a squeezing, heaviness, pressure or tightening, or pain in the chest area. Health experts classify angina into four – stable angina, unstable angina, variant angina, and refractory angina. Stable angina is triggered by physical exhaustion and goes away with rest and medication. Unstable angina occurs at rest and is unpredictable. Doctors say that unstable angina is a serious medical condition as the pain intensifies and can lead to a heart attack. Meanwhile, variant angina is caused by a spasm that temporarily reduces blood flow to the heart. Finally, refractory angina frequently happens despite medication and rest.
Doctors recommend that once a person experiences chest pains to seek medical attention.