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Guide Atherosclerosis

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Plaque, caused by atherosclerosis, is surrounded by a fibrous cap. This fibrous cap may tear or rupture. A tear or rupture tells the body to repair the injured artery lining, much as it might heal a cut on the skin by forming a blood clot to seal the area. A blood clot that forms in an artery can completely block blood flow to the heart muscle and cause a heart attack.

See a picture of how atherosclerosis can cause a heart attack. Stroke or transient ischemic attack TIA. When atherosclerosis affects the arteries that supply blood to the brain, it may cause a transient ischemic attack TIA or stroke. Peripheral arterial disease. Atherosclerosis can affect arteries in other parts of the body, such as the pelvis and legs, causing poor circulation. Abdominal aortic aneurysm. Atherosclerosis can make the walls of the aorta weak.

The aorta is the large artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. A major part of treating atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease involves lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and medicines to help reduce high cholesterol, control high blood pressure, and manage other things that increase a person's risk of heart attack, stroke, and other complications.

Atherosclerosis: Arterial Disease

Atherosclerosis is a process, and there are ways you can slow it down and help lower your risk for heart attack and stroke. A heart-healthy lifestyle can lower your risk. This includes eating heart-healthy foods, being active, staying at a healthy weight, and not smoking. All of these things have many benefits for your body, your heart, and your blood vessels. If your risk is high, you might also take medicines that lower your risk. These include medicines to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

Although the exact process is not completely understood, scientists have described three different stages of atherosclerosis that lead to clogged arteries. These stages do not necessarily occur in order, nor is there always a progression from one stage to the next. The fatty streak. The "fatty streak" appears as a yellow streak running inside the walls of the major arteries, such as the aorta.

The streak consists of cholesterol, white blood cells, and other cellular matter. The fatty streak by itself does not cause symptoms of heart disease but can develop into a more advanced form of atherosclerosis, called fibrous plaque.

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The plaque. A plaque forms in the inner layer of the artery.


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Plaque is a buildup of cholesterol, white blood cells, calcium, and other substances in the walls of arteries. Over time, plaque narrows the artery, and the artery hardens. Plaque sometimes reduces blood flow to the heart muscle, which can cause angina symptoms.


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Plaque in the large artery in the neck carotid artery stenosis may block blood flow to the brain and is a common cause of transient ischemic attack sometimes called "mini-stroke" and stroke. Stable and unstable plaque. Plaques are defined based on the risk that they will tear or rupture. Stable plaque is less likely to rupture.

Atherosclerosis | La Jolla Institute for Immunology

These plaques have a thick fibrous cap and are made up of substances that are stable and not likely to rupture. Unstable plaque is more likely to rupture. These plaques have a thin fibrous cap and are made up of substances like fats that can expand. Inflammation within the plaque can make the fibrous cap unstable and more likely to tear apart. Blocked artery. A blockage in the artery can happen if the plaque tears or ruptures.

This rupture exposes the cholesterol and tissue that was under the fibrous cap. Blood clots form in response to this rupture. The blood clot blocks the blood flow in the artery. This can cause a heart attack or stroke. This theory suggests that atherosclerosis develops as a result of repetitive injury to the inner lining of the artery. Injury may stimulate cells to grow and divide as part of the inflammatory process. This normal, healing response to chronic injury may actually result in the growth of atherosclerotic plaque. Smoking plays a large role in the development of atherosclerosis. The carbon monoxide and nicotine contained in tobacco smoke affect blood flow through your arteries by:.

And its effects can be very serious. This condition can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and death. But, you can take steps to protect yourself from this disease.

Health risks of atherosclerosis

The inside walls of healthy arteries are smooth and clean. This makes it easy to transport the blood your body needs. But arteries can become clogged. Fatty substances like cholesterol can stick to artery walls. These deposits are called plaque.

Plaque can eventually slow or block the flow of blood. This blockage is atherosclerosis. It can affect any artery in your body. When atherosclerosis affects the arteries that supply blood to the heart, it's called coronary artery disease. Two things may occur where a plaque develops.

A plaque may break off or a blood clot may form on the plaque's surface. If either of these situations occur, it may lead to a blockage of an artery and ultimately a heart attack or stroke. When you should start having your cholesterol tested and how often you have your cholesterol tested depends on your risk factors and family history. Testing is done with a blood test. Talk with your healthcare provider about your target cholesterol levels.

Having more than one risk factor can increase your risk even more. You can control most of the above risk factors. The following tips can help prevent atherosclerosis and improve your general health. If you have atherosclerosis, you may be able to stop it from getting worse. If you smoke, get help to quit. Scientists have shown smoking damages the artery walls. This can lead to atherosclerosis. This makes it easier for plaque to build up. If you want help quitting, talk with your healthcare provider.

He or she has information on medicines, nicotine replacement products, and programs to make it easier.

From Molecular and Cellular Insights to Therapeutic Approaches in Atherosclerosis

Also stay away from places where there is cigarette smoke. Research suggests that smoke from others can increase your risk for atherosclerosis. Stopping smoking doesn't mean just tobacco or cigarettes. E-cigarettes and vaping can both cause inflammation of the arteries. So can inhaling smoke from other non-tobacco products. Make changes to your diet.