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Atherosclerosis: Know The Signs And Symptoms

Atherosclerosis: Know The Signs And Symptoms

Atherosclerosis is a condition that results from the buildup of plaque or fatty deposits in a person’s blood vessels. This is a progressive disease, which develops slowly over time. This is why the signs and symptoms of atherosclerosis can vary. It all depends on which blood vessels are affected, as well as the overall health of the person.

Over time, this plaque can restrict or completely block the blood vessels and can hinder proper circulation, potentially causing a heart attack or even a stroke.

However, it’s also possible that the signs and symptoms of atherosclerosis don’t occur until much later, when the disease has progressed to a point that it can be life-threatening.

Despite this, it is definitely worth knowing the signs and symptoms of atherosclerosis, since it could potentially let a person know that it’s time to start making some lifestyle changes in order to halt the progress of this disease.

All You Need To Know About Atherosclerosis

Signs and symptoms of atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis can affect arteries all over the body. But is usually affects the coronary, carotid, peripheral, and renal arteries. These groups of arteries control blood flow to different parts of the body.

And so atherosclerosis can manifest differently depending on which arteries are affected. There are different names for atherosclerosis depending on which arteries it affects.

In the coronary arteries (Coronary Artery Disease): Signs and Symptoms of Atherosclerosis

Coronary Artery Disease involves atherosclerosis of coronary arteries.

Your coronary arteries are the group of arteries that supply blood to your heart. If blood flow in the coronary arteries is restricted or blocked, it can affect the heart’s functions, and can potentially cause a heart attack.

Here are some of the symptoms to watch out for:

  • Angina or chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia
  • Pain or a feeling of being squeezed in your chest
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Lack of energy

In the carotid arteries (Carotid Artery Diseases): Signs and Symptoms of Atherosclerosis

The carotid arteries are the arteries that supply blood to the brain. Any blockage or restriction in blood flow in the carotid arteries can have a negative impact on the brain, and can be responsible for a stroke.

Here are some of the possible symptoms of atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe and unexplained headaches
  • Difficulty speaking or slurred speech
  • Paralysis on one side of the face or the body
  • Dizziness, confusion or loss of coordination
  • Fainting

In the peripheral arteries (Peripheral Artery Disease): Signs and Symptoms of Atherosclerosis

The peripheral arteries supply blood to the arms and legs. Blockage or limited blood flow to the peripheral arteries can have the potential to cause infections, pain and numbness, and a condition called peripheral artery disease.

Peripheral artery disease can cause leg pain, infections, and even gangrene. It can also eventually lead to leg amputation if it becomes too severe.

Here are some of the other symptoms to watch out for:

  • Numbness in the hands or legs
  • Leg or foot pain, especially when walking up stairs
  • Aching or heaviness in the muscles of the legs
  • Sores or wounds that heal slowly

In the renal arteries (Renal Artery Stenosis): Signs and Symptoms of Atherosclerosis

The renal arteries are the arteries responsible for bringing blood to the kidneys. If blood flow to the kidneys is restricted, this can lead to chronic kidney disease. This can severely impedes the ability of the kidneys to filter blood.

Chronic kidney disease has no cure. And if it progresses further, dialysis is typically needed in order to survive. Eventually, a transplant might be required for severely damaged kidneys.

Here are some of the symptoms of atherosclerosis in the renal arteries:

  • Either urinating too often, or too infrequently
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Swelling in the hands and feet
  • Swollen ankles
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Blood in urine
  • Sudden weight loss

What Complications can Atherosclerosis Cause?

How can you prevent atherosclerosis?

One important thing to remember about atherosclerosis is that it is a progressive illness.

Because atherosclerosis develops slowly, it is highly possible for people not to experience any symptoms until their condition has become severe.

Atherosclerosis is not a reversible condition. What this means is that if you get diagnosed with it, you can only slow down or halt the progression of this disease. It is not possible to reverse it in any way.

In some cases, surgery might even be required in order to avoid any fatal complications that might result from this condition.

This is why it is very important to be aware of what steps to take in order to avoid having atherosclerosis in the first place.

Here are some important things to remember when it comes to preventing atherosclerosis:

  • High levels of fat and cholesterol in the body can contribute to atherosclerosis. That is why it’s important to have a diet that’s rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and low in cholesterol and saturated fats.
  • Staying at a healthy weight is important in reducing the risk of atherosclerosis. So ideally, it would be best to engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.
  • Since blood vessels naturally tend to harden as we grow older, it would be a good idea to get yearly check-ups when you are in your 40s in order to make sure that you are not at risk of atherosclerosis.
  • People with diabetes need to be extra wary of atherosclerosis, as diabetes has been found to possibly accelerate the progression of atherosclerosis.
  • People who are pre-hypertensive and hypertensive also need to be careful since their condition puts them at risk of atherosclerosis.
  • Smoking and drinking can also put you at risk of atherosclerosis along with other diseases. So it would be a good idea to quit as early as possible in order to minimize the potential risk.

As with most irreversible diseases concerning the heart and circulatory system, early intervention through lifestyle changes is still the best form of prevention.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Atherosclerosis symptoms https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/blood-heart-circulation/atherosclerosis/symptoms.html Accessed August 10, 2020 Clinical signs of atherosclerosis https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299442416_Clinical_signs_of_atherosclerosis Accessed August 10, 2020 Atherosclerosis https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/atherosclerosis Accessed August 10, 2020 Atherosclerosis Symptoms and Treatment https://www.health.harvard.edu/cholesterol/atherosclerosis-symptoms-and-treatments Accessed August 10, 2020 Atherosclerosis https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atherosclerosis/ Accessed August 10, 2020 Kidney Disease https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/kidney-disease/treatment/ Accessed August 10, 2020 How Diabetes Drives Atherosclerosis https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080313124430.htm Accessed August 10, 2020
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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Aug 10, 2020
Medically reviewed by Mike-Kenneth Go Doratan, M.D.