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Arteriosclerosis

Arteriosclerosis refers to a stiffening of arteries, hardening of arteries.

Arteriosclerosis is a general term describing any hardening (and loss of elasticity) of medium or large arteries.

Atherosclerosis is a specific type of arteriosclerosis, but the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Atherosclerosis refers to the buildup of fats in and on artery walls (plaques), which can restrict blood flow. These plaques can also burst, causing a blood clot. Although atherosclerosis is often considered a heart problem, it can affect arteries anywhere in the body. Atherosclerosis is a preventable and treatable condition.

TYPES

  • Arteriosclerosis obliterans- is typically seen in medium and large arteries of the lower extremity.. The lumen of the vessel may be obliterated or markedly narrowed.
  • Medial calcific sclerosis- is seen mostly in the elderly, commonly in arteries of the extremities. Characterized by calcification of the Tunica media but without thickening of the intima or narrowing of the vessel lumen.

CAUSES
Hardening of the arteries is a process that often occurs with aging. However, high blood cholesterol levels can make this process happen at a younger age.

For most people, high cholesterol levels are the result of an unhealthy lifestyle -- most commonly, eating a diet that is high in fat. Other lifestyle factors are heavy alcohol use, lack of exercise, and being overweight.

Other risk factors for hardening of the arteries are:

  • Diabetes
  • Family history of hardening of the arteries
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking

SYMPTOMS
Hardening of the arteries does not cause symptoms until blood flow to part of the body becomes slowed or blocked.

If the arteries to the heart become narrow, blood flow to the heart can slow down or stop. This can cause chest pain (stable angina), shortness of breath, and other symptoms.

Narrowed or blocked arteries may also cause problems and symptoms in your intestines, kidneys, legs, and brain.

COMPLICATIONS

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Mesenteric artery ischemia
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Renal artery stenosis
  • Stroke

TREATMENT
Preventive measures can be useful-

  • Avoid fatty food.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Stop alcohol.
  • Do regular exercise for 30 minutes daily.


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