Atherosclerosis is a disorder characterized by the formation of plaques within the arteries. In advanced stages, they can become very large and can obstruct the blood circulation.
In some cases, an atheromatous plaque may cause formation of:
Risk factors for atherosclerosis
Arterial obstruction occurs after the deposition and accumulation of fat and cholesterol in the arteries.
The risk factors for this disease may be:
- High levels of LDL (bad cholesterol);
- Sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise;
- Age is a common disease in the elderly;
- Misbehaving: Excessive consumption of saturated fats in the diet and insufficient consumption of healthy fruits, vegetables and foods that contain little fat.
- High blood pressure ;
- Smoke ;
- Alcohol abuse;
- Helicobacter pylori – According to a scientific study published in pubmed (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4365310/), the link between Helicobacter pylori infection and atherosclerosis is uncertain;
Risk factors for atherosclerosis
|Arterial hypertension||Gender (M or F)|
Among the minor risk factors are:
- Inflammatory diseases caused by an infection (such as Chlamydia Pneumoniae),
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis .
Hypertension is an important risk factor.
In people over 45, it is more important than excess cholesterol.
The increase in blood pressure promotes the passage of macrophages (white blood cells) in the intimal (internal wall of the artery), probably by the action of angiotensin II (hormone that stimulates vasoconstriction).
This hormone also favors the production of free radicals and causes an increase in the production of cytokines (proteins that serve to communicate between cells) and adhesion molecules in the endothelial cells of the artery.
Cholesterol and excess lipids in the blood
Hyperlipidemia, and in particular the rise in LDL cholesterol, plays a very important role in the development of fibrosclerotic plaques:
- The main component of the lipid portion of the atheromatous plaques is cholesterol and its esters in plasma;
- Genetic defects in the metabolism of lipoproteins (HDL and LDL) can cause the early onset of atherosclerosis and ischemic heart disease . Familial hypercholesterolemia is characterized by a genetic defect of low density lipoprotein (LDL) receptors in the cell membrane.
The consequence is a high value of LDL cholesterol in the blood.
The presence of elevated levels of homocysteine in plasma promotes the appearance of fibroathermatous plaques because it causes:
- An increase in platelet aggregation,
- The proliferation of arterial smooth muscle cells.
According to a study by Siasos G et al. (Smoking and atherosclerosis: mechanisms of disease and new therapeutic approaches), numerous studies have shown that cigarette smoke causes:
- Oxidative stress (excessive production of free radicals),
- Inflammation of arteries,
- Coagulation of platelets,
- Vascular dysfunction,
- The change in the values of specific lipids in the blood (such as cholesterol).
These effects occur in active and passive smokers.
Symptoms of atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is asymptomatic, but in the advanced stages it may restrict the area in which the blood circulates.
The tissues and organs that receive blood from these arteries may have a reduction in available oxygen.
Symptoms appear when the disease causes significant ischemia (decreased blood flow).
Some commonly occurring arterial obstruction symptoms are:
Symptoms of atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries:
- Vertigo ;
- Headache ;
- Cognitive deficits;
- Shortness of breath ;
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the arms or legs ,
- Difficulty in speaking,
- Temporary loss of vision in one eye,
- Paralysis of the facial muscles.
These are the signs of a transient ischemic attack (TIA) that can progress to a stroke.
Symptoms of atherosclerosis in the heart arteries (coronary arteries) – can cause chest pain or pressure (angina).
Symptoms of atherosclerosis in the arteries of the arms and legs – may cause symptoms such as leg pain while walking (claudication).
Symptoms of atherosclerosis in the arteries leading to the kidneys – may cause:
Among the complications of atherosclerosis are:
- Stroke ,
- Myocardial infarction ,
- Aneurysm of the aorta (bulging of the aortic artery that may burst and may cause severe bleeding ),
Coronary artery disease
Coronary arteriosclerosis is one of the most important and frequent risk factors for heart disease.
One of the main symptoms of coronary atherosclerosis is pain and tightness in the chest, also known as angina pectoris . This disease often mimics a heart attack.
If left untreated, lower blood flow to the heart muscle tissue may cause acute myocardial infarction in advanced stages.
If coronary artery atherosclerosis is chronic, the heart receives a reduced volume of blood for a long period of time.
The consequence is ischemic cardiomyopathy, that is, the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle is insufficient.
When oxygenated blood reaches the heart, the affected person may feel:
The carotid arteries carry the blood to the brain.
When atherosclerosis occurs in the carotid artery, the consequences can be disastrous and deadly.
The symptoms of cerebral atherosclerosis are the same as those of stroke .
In the case of intracranial atherosclerosis, symptoms usually occur only on one side of the body.
When both carotid arteries become clogged, transient ischemic attacks can occur that can cause:
- Numbness on one side of the body;
- Loss of vision on one side;
When AS affects arteries that carry blood to the upper and lower limbs, peripheral arterial disease occurs.
This disease is characterized by certain signs such as:
- Claudication ( pain and weakness in the legs when walking),
- Ulcers ,
- Skin lesions in the legs and arms that do not heal quickly,
- Changes in the color of the lower limbs,
- Slow growth of hair and nails in affected limbs.
This may be transient, but over time it can become so severe that the foot turns blue and goes into gangrene (lack of blood supply).
If the formation of the atherosclerotic plaque occurs together with a thrombosis (formation of a thrombus or blood clot), the problem becomes considerably worse.
Arterial blockage in the legs can cause:
- Pain in the lower limbs , especially in the legs (below the knee).
Also if it is a progressive and generalized disease, it can be prevented:
- Following a diet low in fat and cholesterol,
- Doing physical activity regularly.
Diagnosis of atherosclerosis
Analyzes are performed to diagnose or rule out this disease, for example:
- Blood tests to check your cholesterol level;
- Cardiac stress test (ergometric test);
- Echocolordoppler for atherosclerosis of carotid arteries and other superficial arteries;
- Magnetic Resonance Angiography – Angiography ;
- Coronary angiography to detect blocked coronary arteries.
Treatment for atherosclerosis
Drugs, surgery and lifestyle changes can help patients improve heart efficiency.
Here are a few treatments for atherosclerosis.
Anti-cholesterol drugs: Cholesterol treatment helps slow, stop or even reverse the accumulation of fatty deposits in the patients’ arteries.
Some doctors prescribe anticoagulants that act as blood thinners, preventing the formation of clots.
Antiplatelet drugs: This type of drug reduces the possibility of platelet aggregation in the restricted arteries.
The angioplasty balloon is a potential treatment option for atherosclerosis in which at least 75% of the artery lumen is obstructed. It is used to open blocked arteries.
Surgery – There are several types of surgeries for the treatment of this disease, including myocardial revascularization surgery using a vein or artificial graft.
In addition, endarterectomy (removal of the inner wall of the artery) is another surgery to treat atherosclerosis.
Usually this type of intervention is done in the great arteries:
- The carotid arteries,
- The aorta (in case of atherosclerosis of the aorta).
- Daily physical activity, for example, walk at least 40 minutes a day,
- It is necessary to stop smoking ,
- It is also important to pay attention to any cuts or injuries as it could increase the risk of infection,
- The patient should avoid hydrogenated fats and saturated fats like butter or cream,
- Some doctors advise patients to avoid processed and refined foods, tea, coffee, white sugar.
Natural Remedies for Atherosclerosis
Prevention studies have shown that the arterial obstruction may disappear, altering lifestyle, without harmful side effects.
A healthy and regular lifestyle improves the quality of life.
Cholesterol forms the plaques inside the arteries, blocks them and causes various cardiovascular diseases.
Feeding, exercise, and stress reduction are important in determining the reversal of atherosclerosis.
“Bad” cholesterol is a form of LDL lipoprotein that binds to the inner wall of the arteries, causing atherosclerosis, while “good” cholesterol is made up of HDL lipoproteins that remove fat from the blood and can reduce existing plaques.
The following home remedies help raise the level of HDL in your blood.
The acronym HDL stands for high density lipoprotein while LDL stands for low density lipoprotein.
Diet and food
Bad eating habits: If possible avoid snacks, refined foods or those processed. Similarly, you should not eat at night and skip breakfast or lunch.
Diet rich in fiber: you should eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains (unadvised by various theories of natural medicine), beans, oats, etc. to increase the amount of dietary fiber.
A high fiber diet can help lower cholesterol levels.
Omega 3 fatty acids: Foods containing essential omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna and flaxseed can prevent clotting and cholesterol in the blood.
According to a study published in pubmed ( Effect of lycopene and tomato products on cholesterol metabolism ), lycopene in tomatoes reduces the risk of atherosclerosis.
According to a study published in the pubmed (Investigation of the effect of ginger on the lipid levels, the double blind controlled clinical trial) ginger significantly reduces the level of LDL cholesterol compared to placebo.
Vitamin B3 or niacin: Helps prevent cardiovascular disease because it can raise HDL cholesterol by up to 30%.
Vitamin E: Foods rich in vitamin E such as sunflower seeds or beets can reduce inflammation of the artery walls.
Low Cholesterol Diet: People affected by atherosclerosis should follow a low-cholesterol diet.
Avoid foods that contain saturated fats and opt for foods rich in unsaturated fats such as fish, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, olive oil and canola oil that help clear plaque from arteries.
According to a study by Meydani M. (Vitamin E and atherosclerosis: beyond prevention of LDL oxidation), there is scientific evidence that vitamin E:
- Inhibits the oxidation of LDL cholesterol,
- Contrary to the formation of atheroma plaques.
Food supplements : Some natural supplements can be recommended by the doctor, for example: garlic tablets, vitamin C supplements and fish oil supplements.
A study published in the pubic ( Garlic and Heart Disease ) concluded that garlic supplements have a protective effect on cardiovascular diseases because they reduce some risk factors for atherosclerosis:
- Major (hypertension and total cholesterol)
- Secondary (C-reactive protein and calcification of the arteries).
Plant sterols and stanols : Eating foods with plant sterols and stanols helps to combat atherosclerosis.
The foods that contain these elements are: rice bran, wheat sprouts, nuts, pumpkin seeds and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
Many foods are enriched with plant sterols and stanols.
Other elements: Green tea, apples, grapefruit, extra virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar help lower cholesterol. Daily consumption of garlic and fish oil increases the flow of blood through the arteries.
Pineapple contains bromelain which is a substance with anti-coagulant properties and prevents the development of atherosclerotic plaques.
exercises Moderate cardiovascular exercises such as walking, swimming, cycling, jogging, aerobics, dancing, etc. made can be effective in dissolving the arterial plaques.
Any type of regular exercise helps:
- Reduce the level of bad cholesterol,
- Increase the level of good cholesterol,
- Reduce the plaques inside the arteries.
To begin with, you will need the guidance of physicians and physiotherapists.