Atherosclerosis is a very broad term which means that fat and cholesterol deposits are in the arteries and it can anywhere right from the heart arteries to the brain arteries so it is also called arterial blockage or hardening of the arteries. These blockages have the tendency to block the arteries completely with time, leading to a problem in many bodily functions. You can make lifestyle changes and visit a cardiologist to get this medically treated. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Viveka Kumar, Principal Director and Chief of Cath Labs (Pan Max) of Cardiac Sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket about the causes, symptoms, treatment and tips to prevent atherosclerosis.
In atherosclerosis, the blockage can be totally asymptomatic in mild cases to acute heart attack or acute stroke in others. If you experience a lot of pain in the chest while walking and exercising, it can be a sign of atherosclerosis. So, its the severity of blockage in atherosclerosis in main arteries close beyond 70% that starts affecting the heart. And, on exercise and walking or in any stressful situations, it can cause chest pains. The person can easily identify that if during walking or taking stairs they are getting chest pains or heaviness in the chest. Only this is the main symptom of atherosclerosis which is realised.
There are many factors that are behind this problem. They are mostly lifestyle factors that affect these changes in the body. There are two non modifiable (age and family history) causes when rest of them can be modified by lifestyle modification.
The main causes of atherosclerosis are:
1. High cholesterol level
3. High blood pressure
4. Uncontrolled diabetes
5. Walking less than 5000 steps in 24 hours
6. Lack of sleep
8. High sugar and salt intake
9. Genetic predisposition
Tips to prevent Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is another reason why it is told to control the blood pressure, control the sugar and diet. It is also adviced to exercise and avoid stress. Atherosclerosis is more than 80% a lifestyle disorder because if your lifestyle is not good then atherosclerosis will happen at a younger age. Some tips to prevent Atherosclerosis are:
- Avoid smoking
- Exercise or walk daily
- Avoid stress
- Take a balanced diet
- Proper sleep
Dr. Viveka said, "Usually the pains happen because the heart is getting less blood supply. It is called demand supply mismatch. So, mainly if somebody is resting, the amount of blood heart needs; suppose it is x amount, then on exercise it requires almost 8-10 times more blood. So that's why if the atherosclerosis blockage is more than 70% in the arteries, the person will get chest pains." He further added, "We find this out by doing a stress test, either a treadmill test or a stress echo. So, we utilise the pain information during these tests. So that if a person is having chest pains on a stress test and ECG changes, it means that the atherosclerosis is on a significant level and the person will need treatment for that." Cholesterol medicine is given to control it and the patient is advised to make the above lifestyle changes. So, if there is 1-2% decrease in healthier cholesterol there will be similar proportion decrease in atherosclerosis. He said, "We have got what we call is the atherosclerotic cardiovascular degrees calculator. Based on that calculator , if the patient falls in high risk then we give high dose. If he falls in moderate risk, then we give a moderate dose of cholesterol medicine and if it is in the lower risk then we tell them to make lifestyle modification.
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