Why worry about atherosclerosis?  It is responsible for the 1st, 5th, & 7th leading causes of death in the US.  The Chart below contains age-adjusted death rates for the 10 leading causes of death in 2015: United States, 2014 and 2015

















Obesity is caused by eating too much or eating and drinking too much on a regular basis.  It’s currently an epidemic in this country.  Look around you.  And those television ads…!!!


Atherosclerosis

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What is atherosclerosis? — Atherosclerosis is a condition in which fatty deposits called "plaques" build up inside the arteries in the body. (Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart out to the body.) Atherosclerosis is the reason most people have a heart attack or a stroke.

Atherosclerosis can affect arteries all over the body. There are different names for atherosclerosis depending on which arteries it affects.

Carotid artery disease is a form of atherosclerosis that affects the carotid arteries, which bring blood to the brain (figure 1). This form of atherosclerosis can lead to stroke.

  • Carotid Artery Disease is a form of atherosclerosis that affects the carotid arteries, which bring blood to the brain (figure 1). This form of atherosclerosis can lead to stroke.


  • Coronary Heart Disease, also called coronary artery disease, is a form of atherosclerosis that affects the coronary arteries, which bring blood to the heart muscle. This form of atherosclerosis can cause chest pain and lead to heart attack (figure 2).


  • Renal Artery Stenosis is a form of atherosclerosis that affects the renal arteries, which bring blood to the kidneys. This form of atherosclerosis can cause high blood pressure or lead to kidney disease.


  • Peripheral Artery Disease is a form of atherosclerosis that affects the arteries that bring blood to the arms and legs (figure 3). People with this condition sometimes have pain, tingling, or numbness in their legs when they walk.



(Reference)https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/images/databriefs/251-300/db267_fig3.png


How does atherosclerosis cause heart attacks, strokes, and other problems? - Atherosclerosis-related plaques can cause problems in 2 ways:

  • Plaques can get too big and reduce blood flow to certain body parts (figure 4). This can cause symptoms (such as pain) in the part of the body that is not getting enough blood.


  • Plaques can break open, or rupture. When that happens, blood clots form inside the artery and block the blood supply to tissues past the clot. This is what happens during a stroke or a heart attack (figure 2).


Who is at risk for atherosclerosis? - A person has a higher chance of getting atherosclerosis if he or she:


  • Has high blood pressure


  • Has a high cholesterol or triglycerides (triglycerides are a type of fat found in blood)


  • Has diabetes


  • Has an unhealthy diet


  • Is overweight or does very little physical activity


  • Has a mother or father who got atherosclerosis before the age of 50 years


Will I need tests? — Maybe. Aside from a physical exam, doctors do not typically order tests to check for atherosclerosis in general. Instead, they order tests if they think a patient might have a specific form of atherosclerosis, such as coronary heart disease or peripheral artery disease. The tests for each of these conditions are all very different.

A general test that is often done in people who might have atherosclerosis is called a "lipid profile." This is a blood test that measures the amounts of different forms of fat and cholesterol.

Can the problems caused by atherosclerosis be prevented? - Yes. To reduce your chances of having a heart attack, stroke, or related problem, do the following:

  • Take the medicines your doctor prescribes to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and to prevent clots.


  • Lose weight (if you are overweight).


  • Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. Don't eat a lot of meats, sweets, or refined grains.


  • Do something active for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week.


  • Quit smoking (if you smoke). Ask your doctor for help.


  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Have no more than 2 drinks a day if you are a man. Have no more than 1 drink a day if you are a woman.