Causes and Treatment of Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is one of the diseases a person with untreated hypertension might acquire. Just because hypertension cannot be cured doesn’t mean you should not guard against possible complications. What do you need to know about this illness and why do you need to see a cardiologist in Singapore?

The Risk Factors

People who have high blood pressure are at risk of developing atherosclerosis. But that’s not the only criteria. Smokers, diabetics and the obese are also more likely to develop the illness. Other factors such as high levels of cholesterol, physical inactivity coupled with unhealthy diet, alcohol abuse and low consumption of vegetables and fruits are also taken into consideration.

One important factor is the balance of the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels. LDL cholesterol is often called “bad” cholesterol because an increase will also raise the risk of development of cardiovascular diseases. When you go to Singapore to get a cardiologist opinion not only do you have to keep your cholesterol level in check, but you should watch your sugar level and blood pressure as well. If you have type 1 diabetes, a specialist might also recommend that you consult a heart doctor in Singapore for further tests. If you already have hypertension, it’s important not to miss the medication recommended by your cardiologist.

Causes of Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is characterized by the buildup of fatty material called atherosclerotic plaques or atheromas. These atheromas are deposited on the walls of arteries that result in a blockage or reduction of blood flow. Healthy arteries according to cardiologists in Singapore, are supposed to be elastic and flexible. Although cardiologists cannot illustrate specifically how this condition develops, one known cause of atherosclerosis are the injuries to the artery walls. Injuries may be caused by unchecked blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar, high levels of triglycerides, infections from bacteria or viruses.

When the artery wall is damaged, they send signals to the white blood cells to repair the damage. The white blood cells, which are made up of T cells and monocytes, attach themselves to the injured wall and become foam cells. The foam cells, however, collect cholesterol and fats so that the muscles in the damaged wall can be repaired. When these accumulate over time, they become atheromas. These atheromas could block the arteries and even split and start a blood clot. Don’t wait for complications or a heart attack before you visit your cardiologist.

Three Types of Lesions

Atherosclerosis is just one type arteriosclerosis. Your heart doctor in Singapore might use the two terms interchangeably, but there are marked differences between the two. Arteriosclerosis is divided into three types based on the location of the lesions.

1. Atherosclerosis is commonly found in medium and large arteries. The arteries have plaque buildup which block or slow down the normal flow of blood. The plaques are caused by an injury to the artery walls.

2. Arteriosclerosis comes from the words “arterio” which means arteries and “sclerosis” or hardening. This is a condition marked by the hardening of the arterioles which damage the artery by making it less elastic and thicker. The arterioles are small arteries usually found in the organs. Arteriosclerosis is common among people suffering from diabetes and/or hypertension. The most affected organ is usually the kidney so don’t be surprised if your doctor refers you to a cardiologist if you have diabetes.

3. Moenckberg Medical Calcific Sclerosis manifest in small and medium arteries. The culprit is the buildup of calcium deposits in the arteries which make the opening stiff. The arteries do not necessarily become narrow, however. Some heart doctors in Singapore also consider this harmless. This condition is also uncommon among people younger than 50 years old.

Arteriosclerosis Sub-types

1. Hyperplastic Type affects the lumen. It is usually caused by hypertension and occurs together with fibrinoid necrosis of the arterial intima and media. When the condition is not given proper care from a cardiologist, it could lead to ischaemia and even kidney failure.

2. Hyaline Type is the thickening of the arteriole walls because of the accumulation of pinkish materials. The walls become harder as a result of the deposits. Those at risk of developing this condition usually have hypertension and diabetes. In other cases, this could be the result of calcineurin inhibitor drugs.

Symptoms of Atherosclerosis

You need to consult the best cardiologist nearest you if you experience the following symptoms:

    1. Chest pain
    2. Numbness in your legs or arms
    3. Weakness in your legs or arms
    4. Changes in vision
    5. Drooping facial muscles
    6. Difficulty speaking
    7. Pain in your legs when walking

If you have a pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases, you need to see your cardiologist regularly for check-up, blood tests and general heart screening procedures. Your daily medication will help reduce the likelihood of developing complications in the future including atherosclerosis.

Complications of Atherosclerosis

If left untreated, atherosclerosis can lead to carotid artery disease, coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease, aneurysms, and chronic kidney disease.

The heart doctor will perform a general check-up to determine the best treatment program for you. You will be required to undergo some of the following procedures: blood tests, electrocardiogram, stress test, Doppler ultrasound, ankle-brachial index, cardiac catheterization, angiogram, CT scan, and magnetic resonance angiography.

Treatment of Atherosclerosis

Treatment of the condition may be in the form of medication or surgical procedures. The progress or damage to the arteries will have to be assessed by various specialists and not just your cardiologist. If you have a pre-existing condition other than hypertension, you will also have to treat the symptoms of those conditions. Medications for lowering cholesterol levels will also be recommended. Other medicines might include the following: Beta-blockers, anti-platelet, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics.

Surgical procedure is usually done by a heart surgeon. The following might be recommended by the heart surgeon after a heart screening or when the condition of your heart and blood vessels need to be assessed: bypass surgery, angioplasty, stent replacement, fibrinolytic therapy, and endarterectomy.

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