The thickening and hardening of the arterial walls is known as arteriosclerosis. This condition has been implicated in its silent and significant role in triggering heart attacks and strokes. The outward signs and symptoms of arteriosclerosis are minimal at most but the results on the heart are devastating as a hardening of any of the cardiac arteries cal lead to serious complications.
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The most common form of the many types of arteriosclerosis is the condition called atherosclerosis, in this condition deposits of fatty substances collect along the arterial walls and lead to a thickening and hardening of the arteries. During atherosclerosis the blood vessels are hardened and narrowed because of scarring and calcium deposits within their walls - this is the major complication that can result in serious illness to the heart.
The total destruction of the artery and the death of nearby tissue or necrosis occur because of this complication though at times atherosclerosis can produce only slight and impaired circulation. On the other hand during the complication known as an aneurysm arteriosclerosis causes the opposite effect and this condition occurs because of the widening and rupturing of the arterial walls.
All the arteries within the human body can develop arteriosclerosis though the greatest complications and the most affected organs tend to be the vital organs such as the heart, the brain and along important arterial networks through the legs.
The earliest symptoms appear in the form of circulatory disturbances when they are present, though they are as a rule not evident in every patient and some patients may not experience signs of any sort. Some of the effects of these poor circulatory disturbances on the brain, include sudden headaches, hindered circulation also gives rise to all sorts of dizzy spells, the patient may complain of ear ringing, other signs such as memory problems and poor concentration, and even mood swings can also be experienced.
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Though similar to strokes, the transischemic attacks (TIAs), disappear within seconds of their initial appearance and the effects do not linger on as the effects of a stroke does. Precursors for stokes which should be taken seriously, are the sudden attacks of paralysis, or the appearance of fainting spells including a sudden inability to speak or see properly - all of these must be suspected as possible warnings for stroke and the patient must be immediately rushed to the hospital.
The medical term for any arteriosclerosis in the legs is called intermittent claudication, this brings about pain when the person is walking, and he or she may gain relief from it only by relaxing or resting the legs. The pain must not be mistaken for a passing ailment and is produced by an obstructed artery in the leg.
Another frightening and severe symptom of arteriosclerosis is the medical condition called angina, this problem occurs when the blood vessels leading to the heart undergo some sort of temporarily blockage, leading to typical symptoms such as pain in the cardiac tissues. The first sign of hardening and narrowing in the arteries is the presence of high blood pressure in an individual.
The condition can be altogether prevented by carefully monitoring and reducing all the risk factors that can contribute to the condition. A high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels are significant factors that must be removed immediately. Another major cause of arteriosclerosis of course is the consumption of an improper diet.
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Such a diet is one which is rich in saturated fats, in all types of deep-fried food, ones which have too much meat or that are poor in fiber. It is important to eat diets that have abundant amounts of fresh vegetables and fruits as diets lacking in these deprive the body of essential nutrients for long periods of time.
The greatest danger comes from alkaloid rich beverages such as coffee and caffeinated colas, alcohol are another major contributor to the risk of developing the condition. The chances for developing arteriosclerosis is also enhanced by the consumption of a diet rich in sweets, and those that abound in fast food items and in refined food. Because of the fact that they already possess a very high blood sugar level, all diabetics are extremely vulnerable to developing arteriosclerosis.
Refined foods such as many types of white-flour products, all kinds of pastas and rice contain little natural fiber and nutrients - they thus significantly increase the chances of developing the condition. Plaques are the white areas of fatty tissue deposition within the arteries which cause the arterial walls to bulge out, the use of homogenized milk is responsible for plaque formation, since it is rich in fat particles and this form of milk should be reduced in the diet. Another substance that is hard on the arterial walls is nicotine; nicotine from any form of tobacco hinders arterial circulation and is considered another risk factor in the development of the condition.
The high-stress and sedentary lifestyle of the average North American is also largely responsible for the development of this condition. The risk of all blood vessel related problems increases with too little physical activity and lifestyle change is one of the major ways in which such conditions can be eliminated.
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The maintenance of the muscle tone and the condition of the heart and the lungs improves considerably through exercise which promotes efficient circulation. A lot of stress is placed on the heart and the arteries by living a fast-paced or high-stress lifestyle as such lifestyles increase the blood pressure.
As a rule, the older one get, the likelihood of risk factors occurring increases as the arteries become less elastic and more susceptible to arteriosclerosis with age, elder people must therefore work to reduce all the risk factors associated with the condition to stave off its development. The risk of developing these diseases also increases if there is any history of heart disease or strokes in the family - thus the illness has a hereditary basis and all individuals who have a family history of the condition must take appropriate measures to ward off its incidence.
One internal risk factor whose presence or absence dictates the chances of developing the disease is a protein called a lipoprotein. This risk factor lipoprotein is a combination fat-protein molecule that has similarities to the "bad" or LDL cholesterol, it possesses an additional piece in its structure called an apoprotein.
The significance of the lipoprotein is in its role as a major component in the plaques that develop on the arterial walls of patients with atherosclerosis. Thus the presence or absence of the lipoprotein can signal the presence or absence of the condition in patients, and correspondingly the levels of this protein is high in people affected by coronary artery disease while in those without coronary artery disease its level remains low or is nil.