Known more by its artery-hardening nickname, atherosclerosis, or ASVD, is a condition which causes the artery walls to thicken due to cholesterol and fatty material build-up. And as you may suspect, atherosclerosis is a very dangerous disease.
There are many treatments for atherosclerosis, however, and having ASVD is not necessarily a death sentence. It takes vigilance and plenty of self discipline, but this disease can be combated.
Atherosclerosis is a syndrome, basically, affecting arterial blood vessels, causing a chronic inflammatory response in artery walls due to an accumulation of macrophage white blood cells and also promoted by LDL (low-density lipoproteins).
The process is caused by the formation of plaque within the arteries. Referred to as an atheroma in pathology, this build-up of debris and lipids causes swelling and blockage which can result in many problems, such as cardiac arrest.
Main Causes of Atherosclerosis
- What you eat
- How often your exercise
- Overall health
- LDL – bad cholesterol
Atherosclerosis is a process which can begin in early adolescence and persist until fatal if left untreated. The disease itself is caused when LDLs become oxidized by free radicals in your system.
In simplistic terms, LDL comes in contact with the wall of your artery once is it oxidized. Once there, a series of reactions take place within your body, more like a defense mechanism that unfortunately works against your arteries.
The oxidized LDL is recognized as an enemy within your body. Your body then goes into action, attempting to repair any damage to the artery wall. To fight this, white blood cells are sent to basically clean up the mess.
The white blood cells (T-lymphocytes and macrophages) cannot absorb and carry out the oxidized and hollow LDL. The cells cannot process the oxidized enemy, and thus the cells are trapped near the artery to grow and rupture. This then causes even more oxidized cholesterol to settle into the artery wall.
Your body runs on a cycle from that point. More damage is recognized, more white blood cells are sent, and the cycle continues time and again.
The eventual result is inflammation of the artery. As a last resort to protect the artery and thus your heart’s blood flow, the surrounding muscle cells then go into action, creating a hard cover around the artery. While this slows down the cycle, it also narrows the artery and encases it in a hard cover, reducing blood flow and increasing blood pressure.
Once the hard cover is complete, the inflammation can turn into an infection which leads to atherosclerosis.
Like most cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis can be treated and controlled. The first means for treating this disease is, of course, exercise.
Now, how physical you can be with this disease will depend on its progression and your overall condition. Being too physically active could result in dire consequences. If you have been diagnosed with this disease or feel you may have heart problems, seeing a physician is vital.
Completing a stress test will let you know how physical you can safely be.
Proper dieting is also in order here. Watching your fat intake, as well as promoting HDL (good cholesterol) and eliminating LDL (bad cholesterol) are important factors. Not that this will necessarily reverse all the affects of the disease, but it will help break the cycle so that it doesn’t continue to happen with other arteries, and so that your blood has lesser risk of developing clots, and promotion of healthy cholesterol will help you to reduce bad cholesterol.
The popular treatment for any such disease is medication. Today’s medical professionals have made brilliant breakthroughs with heart medicine, and even serious conditions can be handled and patients can lead full active lives.
The medications you will take with atherosclerosis are called statins – HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors which help to lower cholesterol levels. Statins, the most popular being Lipitor, can either be prescribed by doctors or are available over the counter.
Other medications may also help with atherosclerosis, such as anti-inflammatory meds, steroids, and other medications aimed at cholesterol absorption, and also niacin – an organic compound.
The aforementioned niacin is a great supplement you can find on your own and not necessarily in medicinal form. Another supplement that can help with atherosclerosis is fish oil. Omega-3 oils, from the muscle of deep-dwelling saltwater, fish have helped to control cholesterol levels.
Vitamins C, E can also be very beneficial to your overall health and help to strengthen your body’s defenses against atherosclerosis.
Surgical procedures, such as stenting the heart or having bypass surgery, can effectively help save lives and stave off the effects of atherosclerosis. Surgery can remove blockages and create alternate routes for blood to flow to and from the hearth unobstructed. These angioplasty procedures, although effective, are not cures for the disease.
The information provided here about atherosclerosis treatments is in no way a cure for the disease. Most medical professionals agree that effectively reducing cholesterol levels can cause enough of a significant reversal that a patient once having atherosclerosis would no longer technically have atherosclerosis; however, they would still have artery wall damage and the potential for the cycle to begin again.
Preemptive care is always the preferred solution, but maintaining healthy cholesterol, which lowers bad cholesterol, along with exercise, is the best nonsurgical plan of attack for atherosclerosis.