Arteriosclerosis is hardening of the arteries due to plaque buildup on the artery walls. Hardened arteries can make blood flow to the organs of the body not smooth so that it interferes with the function of these organs. This condition can occur due to various things, such as fat accumulation or aging.
Arteries are blood vessels that function to carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart throughout the body. Over time, arteries can harden so that they lose their elasticity.
Arteriosclerosis can occur in the arteries that carry blood to the heart, brain, legs and kidneys. If it lasts for a long time, blood flow to these organs will be disrupted, even blocked. As a result, people with atherosclerosis are at risk of developing serious illnesses, such as stroke and coronary heart disease .
Although they are often considered the same, atherosclerosis is different from atherosclerosis . Arteriosclerosis includes all conditions of hardening of the arteries. Meanwhile, atherosclerosis is a hardening of the arteries that specifically occurs due to the accumulation of fat in the artery walls. In other words, atherosclerosis is included in the type of arteriosclerosis.
Causes of Arteriosclerosis
Arteriosclerosis occurs when the inner walls of the arteries are damaged. As a result, blood cells and plaque formed from cholesterol , fat, or calcium accumulate on the artery walls and clog the blood vessels.
Blockage of blood vessels makes blood flow to the organs of the body not smooth. This results in the organ not functioning properly.
Not yet known with certainty the cause of damage to the arteries. However, this condition is believed to occur from a young age and can develop with age.
In addition, there are several conditions that can increase the risk of damage to the arteries, namely:
- High cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- High blood pressure
- Excess weight
- Inflammation due to arthritis , lupus, or infection
- Smoking habit
- Lack of exercise
- Unhealthy diet
- Family history of heart disease
Types of arteriosclerosis
Arteriosclerosis can be divided into several types, namely:
As previously explained, atherosclerosis occurs due to the accumulation of fat in the walls of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is the most common type of arteriosclerosis.
Arteriolsclerosis is hardening of the arteries due to fat accumulation. This type is almost the same as atherosclerosis. The difference is that arteriosclerosis occurs in the walls of the smaller arteries, namely the arterioles.
This type of arteriosclerosis is caused by a buildup of calcium in the middle lining of the arteries. Mönkeberg's arteriosclerosis is a rare type of arteriosclerosis.
Most cases of atherosclerosis don't cause symptoms until a blockage occurs in an artery. The symptoms that appear depend on the location of the blocked artery.
Based on the location of the blocked artery, the symptoms that can appear are:
- Blockage in the arteries leading to the brain, which can cause symptoms such as numbness in the legs and arms, difficulty speaking, impaired vision, and facial drooping
- Blockage in the arteries leading to the heart, which can cause complaints of chest pain , shortness of breath, and heart rhythm disturbances
- Blockage in the artery leading to the leg, which can cause symptoms such as pain in the leg when walking and a drop in blood pressure in the affected arm
- Blockage in the arteries leading to the kidneys, which can cause complaints in the form of high blood pressure to kidney failure
When to see a doctor
Immediately see a doctor if you experience symptoms of arteriosclerosis as mentioned above, especially chest pain and numbness or pain in the legs. Early screening and treatment can prevent atherosclerosis from worsening and developing into heart disease and stroke.
The doctor will ask about the symptoms experienced by the patient, as well as the medical history of the patient and family. After that, the doctor will carry out a thorough physical examination, including measuring the difference in blood pressure in the arms and legs ( ankle-brachial index ), and checking the pulse near the narrowed arteries.
Next, the doctor will carry out a supporting examination whose type depends on the results of the physical examination. These supporting examinations include:
- Blood tests , to measure cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- Doppler ultrasound , to measure blood pressure in the leg or arm
- Stress test, to measure how well the heart works during physical activity
- Electrocardiography (EKG), to measure the electrical activity of the heart
- Cardiac catheterization, to see if there is a blockage in the heart arteries
- Scanning with a CT scan or MRA ( magnetic resonance angiography ), to see narrowing and hardening of the artery walls
One of the recommended treatment methods for arteriosclerosis is to change lifestyles, such as exercising regularly and eating healthy foods. However, in some cases, patients require medical treatment in the form of:
The following drugs are used to slow or stop the effects of atherosclerosis:
- Drug class statins or fibrates, to lower cholesterol
- Anti -platelet drugs , to prevent blood clots in the arteries
- Beta blockers , to decrease fast heart rhythm
- ACE inhibitors and diuretics, to lower high blood pressure
- Calcium antagonists, to treat high blood pressure and angina
If arteriosclerosis is classified as severe and it is feared that it will damage the muscles and skin tissue, the doctor will perform surgery. Possible surgical methods include:
- Endarterectomy, to remove plaque that is blocking the arteries
- Angioplasty and ring placement ( stent ), to open narrowed arteries
- Bypass surgery , to make way in a blocked artery with a blood vessel from the calf or arm so that blood flow is smooth
Complications that can occur due to arteriosclerosis depend on the location of the blocked artery. These complications include:
- Coronary heart disease
- Transient ischemic attacks and strokes
- Peripheral artery disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Aneurysm (enlarged blood vessel)
Prevention of arteriosclerosis
Arteriosclerosis can be prevented by minimizing the risk factors mentioned above. The trick is to live a healthy lifestyle, such as:
- Do not smoke
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthy and nutritionally balanced foods , and increase your intake of vegetables and fruits
- Maintain ideal body weight
- Get enough rest and sleep
- Manage stress well
In addition, people with diabetes, lupus and arthritis are advised to regularly visit their doctor to monitor their health condition and the effectiveness of the treatment they have taken.