Approximately over 4 million people in the United States are diagnosed with atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a thickening and hardening of the arteries, and this occurs when a lot of wax coating (plaque) of cholesterol and lipids form in the arterial tunica intima (layman’s term: inner layer of artery).
Arteriosclerosis is classified in as a group of diseases that are characterized by the hardening of the arteries. There are 3 forms: atherosclerosis, Monckeberg’s arteriosclerosis, and arteriolosclerosis. When it is diagnosed as Monckeberg’s arteriosclerosis is when there is destruction of muscle and elastic fibers along with deposits of calcium in the middle layer of the artery. (Arterial tunica media)
Atherosclerosis is one of the leading causes of most myocardial infarctions (heart attacks), and cerebral infarctions. (Stroke) An individual with this condition is most likely asymptomatic. Some of the first signs and symptoms are: angina (heartburn), dizziness, shortness of breath, and increased blood pressure.
The study and cause of atherosclerosis is complicated, and multifaceted. There are studies that do show that an individual is at a higher risk if it runs in their family, live a sedentary lifestyle, a diet that is high in cholesterol, smoking, diabetes mellitus, hypertension and obesity.
The diagnosis of this disease is generally found during a routine physical. Blood work will show if the individual has elevated cholesterol, triglycerides and lipid levels. If an ultrasound is performed it will reveal decreased blood flow in the major vessels.
The treatment for any form of arthrosclerosis generally consists of diet changes to decrease the amount of saturated fats and foods that are high in cholesterol. Smokers are encouraged to quit. The high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus are treated and controlled with medications. There are also new additions to the standard medications for controlling this disease. There is a drug added that inhibits the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine.
The future prognosis is varied, and will depend greatly on the individual’s compliance with the prescribed drug therapy, exercise, and the necessary diet changes. There is the possibility to prevent the progression of this disease if doctor’s orders are complied with.