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Atherosclerosis Symptoms: What To Watch Out For

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner


Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Mar 13, 2023

Atherosclerosis Symptoms: What To Watch Out For

There is currently no cure for atherosclerosis, but the condition can be slowed with statin medications and dietary changes. Atherosclerosis is the buildup of fats, cholesterol, and other substances in and on the artery walls. This buildup is known as plaque. The plaque can cause arteries to narrow, obstructing blood flow. The plaque can also burst, leading to a blood clot. Bits of plaque can break loose and cause blood clots that may lead to heart attack or stroke.  What are some atherosclerosis symptoms? 

What are atherosclerosis symptoms?

Most atherosclerosis symptoms do not manifest until a blockage has occurred. The typical atherosclerosis symptoms include:

  • Chest pain or angina
  • Pain in your leg, arm, or anywhere else that has a blocked artery
  • Cramping in your buttocks, calf, or thigh. The cramping is intermittent, aggravated by doing exercise or effort, and relieved by rest.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion—which occurs if the blockage affects circulation to your brain
  • Loss of motor or sensory function on one side of the body
  • Muscle weakness in your legs from poor circulation

There are also noncoronary atherosclerotic symptoms, such as non-healing wounds, impotence, weight loss, and abdominal pain.

Additionally, it’s crucial to understand the signs of heart attack and stroke, both of which can be brought on by atherosclerosis. Immedicately call for urgent medical intervention.

What are heart attack signs?

Heart attack signs and symptoms include:

  • Severe chest heaviness radiating to the right arm or jaw
  • Abdominal pain
  • Breathing difficulties, sweating, and lightheadedness
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Fast heart beat

What are stroke signs?

Stroke signs and symptoms include:

  • Facial or limb numbness or weakness
  • Speech difficulties
  • Speech understanding difficulties
  • Vision issues
  • Sudden balance issues and problems with walking
  • Severe headache
  • confusion
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Both a heart attack and a stroke are emergencies. If you see signs of a heart attack or stroke, call the hospital hotline or your local emergency services and go to the emergency department of a hospital as soon as you can.

What to do if you exhibit atherosclerosis symptoms?

Once you have a blockage, it usually won’t go away. But you can slow or stop plaques with medicine and lifestyle changes. With vigorous therapy, they might even slightly contract.

Lifestyle changes

A balanced diet, regular exercise, and quitting smoking are lifestyle modifications that can slow or stop atherosclerosis. Although they won’t remove blockages, these changes have been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Medication

Atherosclerosis will be slowed and possibly even stopped by medications for high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which also lowers your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Tests

Initially, tests include blood tests and imaging scans – no procedures yet until the doctor recommends one or several. That’s why it’s crucial to seek consultation when you experience symptoms of atherosclerosis.

Intervention Strategies

If your doctor diagnosed you with atherosclerosis, they will most likely recommend lifestyle modifications, such as having a heart-healthy diet, regular, appropriate exercise, and smoking cessation. They might also give you some medicines, like cholesterol medications. Depending on your condition, they might also recommend the following intervention strategies:

Angiography and stenting

To access diseased arteries, your doctor inserts a thin tube into an artery in your leg or arm; blockages are then visible on a live X-ray screen. Angioplasty, which uses a catheter with a balloon tip, and stenting can frequently open a blocked artery. Stenting, however, only relieves symptoms and does not stop heart attacks.

Bypass surgery

Your doctor will often use a healthy blood vessel from your leg or chest to circumvent a blocked segment.

Endarterectomy

Your doctor enters the arteries in your neck to remove plaque and improve blood flow. For individuals at higher risk, they may also install a stent.

Fibrinolytic therapy

A blood clot that is obstructing your artery is broken up by medication.

Your physician will go over these procedures’ risks with you.

Key Takeaways

With treatment, your health may improve. But it may take some time. The severity of your problem, atherosclerosis symptoms, damage to other organs, and whether or not artery hardening can be reversed will all determine how well you respond to treatment. Making healthy lifestyle and nutritional adjustments can help slow down the process or stop your condition from worsening. 

Make the necessary changes to your lifestyle in close consultation with your doctor. They’ll assist you in locating the right meds to treat your condition and prevent side effects.

Learn more about Atherosclerosis here

Disclaimer

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

Medically reviewed by

Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

General Practitioner


Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Mar 13, 2023

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