Hardened arteries, also known as atherosclerosis or clogged arteries, is a dangerous condition where the wall of the artery thickens. This is a problem because it can go undetected for years and the first symptom for many sufferers is a heart attack or cardiac death. It is also quite difficult to detect until there is significant clogging. Let’s take a look at what causes clogged arteries.
What causes hardened arteries?
It is believed that hardened arteries begin in early adolescence. The cause of hardened arteries is a build up of fatty materials, such as cholesterol, on the artery wall. These accumulate slowly over a number of years and contribute to the formation of plaque within the artery. To further the problem this buildup causes cells to produce other substances in the arteries that can cause more plaque. This makes the artery an irregular shape and narrows the channels that blood flows through. This leads to a decrease in blood flow and eventually total blockage of the artery.
Symptoms of hardened arteries
In many cases there are no symptoms of hardened arteries until the advanced stages, but some people experience high blood pressure, kidney problems, blood clots and chest pain (angina).
Diagnosis and treatment
The most common testing procedures for hardened arteries are ultrasound and stress testing. Another common procedure is an angiography, where a liquid dye is injected into a blood vessel to be studied with a series of x-rays.
Treatment for hardened arteries usually begins with a drug from a group of medications known as statins. Dietary supplements and a “heart smart” diet is also used in many cases. In the worst cases surgery is required to correct the problem.
Risk factors and prevention
There are many risk factors for developing hardened arteries including; smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension and vitamin B6 deficiency.
There are a number of recommended ways of preventing hardened arteries including; avoiding smoking, adequate rest, exercise, healthy diet and reducing stress.