Blood flows through the arteries and transports oxygen and nutrients to the organs. Over time the walls of the arteries become clogged due to gradual plaque buildup. This can lead to the hardening and thickening of the arteries, leading to cardiovascular disease.
This buildup occurs naturally and is not dangerous in moderate amounts. In fact, most people have somewhat clogged arteries by their forties.
Patients with atherosclerosis often show no symptoms until at least half the diameter of the artery is clogged.
The actual number of people suffering from atherosclerosis is unknown, but its impact on the population can be assessed by the role it plays in many cardiovascular pathologies. In fact, it is a condition that affects the whole body, so extensive and thorough examination and care of the patient will be necessary. Dealing with atherosclerosis involves drug and surgical treatments as well as lifestyle changes. Without treatment, the danger of this condition increases. Cardiovascular diseases remain the leading cause of death worldwide, so atherosclerosis remains a real public health issue.
This article will explain this condition, it’s risk factors, consequences, prevention and treatment measures.
Generally speaking, the term “sclerosis” refers to any fibrous degeneration of a tissue or organ, while “athêra”, a term of Greek origin, means gruel, or wax.
Atherosclerosis is the accumulation of lipids (fatty acids), blood, carbohydrates (sugar), and fibrous tissue in the walls of the arteries.
These deposits form plaques, the fatty part of which is called atheroma. Excessive LDL cholesterol (or “bad” cholesterol) is responsible for the formation of these atheromatous plaques. This process can be compared to limescale clogging the faucet pipes.
These plaques gradually merge and harden, reducing the diameter of the arteries, which hinders the passage of blood and then end up blocking the arteries completely. These deposits can also lead to the formation of clots, which can migrate and block other arteries.
Fat deposits are found in all arteries, particularly the abdominal aorta, coronary arteries, internal carotid arteries that supply blood to the brain, cerebral arteries, and leg arteries (femoral and iliac).
What are the causes and risk factors of atherosclerosis?
Atherosclerosis is linked to normal tissue aging and decreased collagen production. With age, the internal wall of the arteries (intima) loses flexibility. The intima is, therefore, more fragile and prone to damage.
Atheromatous plaques form because of the accumulation of lipids (mainly LDL cholesterol) infiltrating the lesions located on the surface of the inner wall of the arteries (endothelium). These plaques are likely to thicken with the addition of other blood elements (calcium, platelets, blood cells but also fibrinogens). At this stage, we are talking about atherosclerosis, which is therefore related to hypercholesterolemia and abnormalities in lipid metabolism.