Heart & Circulatory Health

Atherosclerosis: The Silent Killer

Written by
Dr. Vasantha K S
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on May 19, 2018 and last reviewed on Sep 07, 2018   -  2 min read

Abstract

Abstract

Atherosclerosis is a coronary artery disease which is statistically the No. 1 killer. It is a silent disease, causing us no symptoms, and when it does, it can be life-threatening. Read this article to know how you can prevent this deadly disease.

Atherosclerosis: The Silent Killer

The word '-athero' means paste and '-stenosis' means harden. So, atherosclerosis is the hardening of deposits formed inside the blood vessels, gradually building up to obstruct the blood flow in the vessel, and eventually, restricting the blood flow completely.

Causes

In a healthy person, the innermost lining of the arteries is smooth and elastic. But, in persons with risk, the layer is damaged. This attracts the bad cholesterol to build up in the artery wall, forming plaques. The white blood cells (WBC) in the blood react to this by invading the area to ingest the LDL cholesterol. During this process, some of the WBC get adhered to the plaque, making it bigger and more dangerous. Thus, the lumen (space in the artery) is narrowed, until it affects blood flow to the concerned organ.

Also, a chunk of the plaque can dislodge from the site and get carried by the bloodstream to get deposited elsewhere, causing blocks there. This site can be anywhere in the body, however far from the place of its origin.

Risk

  1. High cholesterol.
  2. Smoking.
  3. Lack of physical activity.
  4. Family history.
  5. Hypertension.
  6. Diabetes.
  7. Obesity.

Symptoms

Unfortunately, there are no symptoms felt until there is a full-fledged block. This is why this disease is also called a silent killer. Depending on the location of the artery, symptoms can vary as follows.

  • Chest pain.
  • Chest discomfort.
  • Weakness.
  • Difficulty in breathing.
  • Confusion.
  • Leg pain.
  • Numbness.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Loss of balance.
  • A sudden headache.
  • Difficulty in speech.
  • Trouble understanding speech.

Treatment

Depending on the severity, treatment options can be one of the following as suggested by your doctor.

I. Lifestyle modification

  • Limit intake of unhealthy fats.
  • Restrict salt in the diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat healthy, high-fiber foods.
  • Manage weight.
  • Stop alcohol consumption.

II. Medications

Medicines that prevent plaque buildup are prescribed by the doctor, to be taken long-term. Depending on the case, drugs such as

  • statins,
  • antiplatelet drugs,
  • anticoagulants,
  • ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors, etc.,

may be prescribed.

III. Surgery

More severe cases require surgical intervention in the form of

  • angioplasty,
  • stenting,
  • bypass surgery.

Atherosclerosis is more common than we think. It stays silent in most of us. But, once symptoms appear, it is already too late. It is a dangerous condition that can be prevented with healthy habits. Start now, and do what you can to keep your heart healthy.

For information consult a coronary artery disease specialist --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/cardiologist/coronary-artery-disease

Last reviewed at:
07 Sep 2018  -  2 min read

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