Atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) (Part 1)
Atherosclerosis is the medical term for what most of us refer to as “clogging of the arteries”, usually with fatty substances such as cholesterol. Atherosclerosis occurs when arteries become clogged up by fatty substances called plaques or atheromas. This build up of plaque is the root cause of various cardiovascular diseases such as angina, heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. About 10,000 people die each year from cardiovascular disease (CVD), including coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and other circulatory diseases. Atherosclerosis is the underlying cause for heart disease. In atherosclerosis, plaques cause affected arteries to harden and narrow which is potentially dangerous because restricted blood flow can damage organs and stop them functioning properly.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD)
Atherosclerosis is a major risk factor for many conditions involving the flow of blood, collectively known as cardiovascular disease (CVD). Examples of CVD include Peripheral Arterial Disease, where the blood supply to the legs is blocked, causing muscle pain and cramps; Coronary heart disease, where main arteries that supply the heart become clogged with plaque (eg. Angina); Stroke, where blood supply to the brain is blocked; Pulmonary embolism, a potentially life threatening clot in a blood vessel in the lungs and Heart Attack, where blood supply to the heart is blocked. In some cases, the plaque can also cause a weakening of the wall of an artery. This can lead to an aneurysm. Aneurysms can rupture and cause bleeding that can be life threatening, for example, in the brain.
Certain factors increase the risk of atherosclerosis. These are mainly lifestyle related and include smoking, a high-fat diet, a lack of exercise, being overweight or obese, having either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, having high blood pressure and having high cholesterol. There is also a genetic influence. Over the course of years and decades, plaque build up narrows the arteries and makes them stiffer. This makes it harder for blood to flow through them. Clots may form in these narrowed arteries and block blood flow.
Who is affected?
Arteries naturally get harder as a person grows older. Therefore, atherosclerosis tends to be more common in people over 40 years of age. Atherosclerosis is more common in men than women, probably because oestrogen provides some protection against the effects of atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis does not usually produce symptoms until blood circulation becomes restricted or blocked, leading to cardiovascular disease (CVD). The type of CVD and its associated symptoms will depend on where the blockage occurs. Conditions caused by atherosclerosis include erectile dysfunction, varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, peripheral arterial disease, leg ulcers, aneurysm, angina, heart attack and stroke.
What is our BPro Cardio Screen Service?
Whelehans has a cardiovascular health check called BPro Cardio Screen. It measures stiffness of your arteries to help identify risk of blockages and risk of cardiovascular disease and circulation problems. BPRo is placed like a watch on your wrist and is completely pain free. A pulse wave reads and calculates a wave signal that indicates the elasticity of large, small, and peripheral artery walls as well as tests for stress, central blood pressure, heart rate, and more. It is now only €35 (was €50); it takes about 15 minutes. To coincide with World Heart Day which is end of September, our next clinic is Thursday September 27th from 9am to 5pm. Call 04493 34591, drop into Whelehans Pearse St or Message Whelehans Pharmacy on Facebook to book.
To be continued…next week I will discuss treatment of atherosclerosis
Note: BPro Cardio Screen is not meant as a substitute for proper medical assessment with your doctor
This article is shortened to fit within Newspaper space limits. More detailed information and leaflets is available in Whelehans