Arteriosclerosis is a vascular condition related to arteries. It is a condition where there is degeneration of the structures composing the walls of arteries. Normally arteries are flexible and elastic, but in arteriosclerosis the walls of arteries become stiff and hard. As a result the artery becomes weak and narrow.
Arteries are blood vessels which carry oxygenated blood and nutrients to various tissues and body cells. When the arteries become stiff and hard, the heart has to pump vigorously against the resistance so that the blood reaches various organs. The condition develops gradually and people with arteriosclerosis suffer from high blood pressure, coronary artery diseases, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.
Aging and lifestyle changes are main contributing factors for arteriosclerosis.
The term Arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis are often interchanged, but atherosclerosis is one type of arteriosclerosis, the other two types are medial calcific sclerosis and arteriolar sclerosis. Atherosclerosis is formation of plaque in the artery wall and it is made up of fats and cholesterol. All of them cause stiffening, thickening and degeneration of arterial wall. Blood flow gets restricted.
What Are The Causes Of Arteriosclerosis?
The degenerative changes that occur in arteriosclerosis have many risk factors.
- Age: Arteriosclerosis is gradual in onset and with age the inner wall of arteries may degenerate as other organs. However, the condition can also prevail in younger individuals and lifestyle changes are generally responsible for it.
- Males suffer from this more than females, from the fact that a greater number of males are addicted to alcohol and smoking. Both alcohol and smoking is exceptionally high contributor in causing arteriosclerosis.
- People suffering from syphilis are susceptible to develop this condition. It is a sexually transmitted disease. However, with advent of penicillin the cases of syphilis are treated adequately and there is less risk of suffering from arteriosclerosis in modern days.
- Rheumatism and gout are other conditions that can trigger hardening of blood vessels.
- High cholesterol level and diabetes contribute early onset of this condition.
- Living unhealthy lifestyle, sedentary life, excessive usage of sugar, tea, caffeine, all trigger arteriosclerosis.
Symptoms Of Arteriosclerosis
The symptoms usually develop gradually. Frequently the symptoms and signs are too late to be detected, when already the damage has begun. The symptoms may depend on which artery is involved. If there is narrowing of the arteries which supply blood to heart (coronary arteries), patient may complain of chest pain on exertion, breathlessness, high blood pressure etc.
- If the arteries supplying blood to the brain are involved, patient may complain of severe headache, impairment of vision as the optic vessels become narrow, stroke, vertigo, difficulty in performing mental work, memory loss, melancholia, irritability etc.
- When the arteriosclerosis occurs in arteries of arms and legs, patient may complain of pain in legs while walking, non healing ulcers in legs, finger and toes become blue. Peripheral pulse may be absent. The condition is called peripheral vascular disease.
Treatment Options For Arteriosclerosis
A person suffering from arteriosclerosis should seriously attempt to change his lifestyle as it is a life threatening condition. It requires immediate medical attention. Some of the common tips to alter and prevent further damage to the arteries are:
- Change in lifestyle: It is necessary to quit smoking and alcohol intake. Regular exercise and weight management play key role in reducing problems related to arteriosclerosis. He should take more of fiber containing foods and reduce intake of saturated fats and salt. Eat foods that are high in antioxidants and essential fatty acids. Magnesium deficiency has major role in arterial disease; therefore eat foods that are high in magnesium. Reduce stress level by practicing yoga and meditation.
- Medications prescribed by doctor to reduce hypertension, cholesterol should be taken without any delay.
- Surgery may be needed when the artery is severely blocked due to atherosclerosis. Bypass graft and angioplasty may be necessary in such situation to regularize the blood flow.
- Few homeopathic medicines such as Cuprum sulph, Zinc phos, Lachesis, Glonoine, Aurum Met may be useful in treating the condition.