Arteriosclerosis is the thickening, hardening and loss of elasticity of the walls of arteries. This process gradually restricts the blood flow to organs and tissues and can lead to atherosclerosis, a build-up of plaque in artery walls that can cause life-threatening heart disease, strokes, circulation problems in the arms and legs, aneurysms and chronic kidney disease.
The following factors can contribute to arteriosclerosis:
Older individuals, and those with a family history of arteriosclerosis, are at a higher risk for arteriosclerosis. Additional risk factors include:
Although you cannot control your family history or genetics, you can reduce your risk for arteriosclerosis through medications (for high blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes) and adopt a healthy lifestyle by quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and eating healthy foods.
Hardening of the arteries occurs gradually, often with no outward symptoms. Despite a lack of symptoms, however, as arteriosclerosis progresses, clogged arteries may trigger a stroke or heart attack, carrying with them the following symptoms:
If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
If you think you have atherosclerosis, talk to your physician. Early diagnosis and treatment can stop atherosclerosis from worsening and prevent a heart attack, stroke or other medical emergency.
Your physician will take a complete family history and perform a medical exam, to detect signs of abnormal artery function.
Your physician may also suggest one or more diagnostic tests:
Treatment for arteriosclerosis includes a healthy diet, exercise, smoking cessation and medication, to control or possibly reverse your condition.
Depending on the extent of the blockage, physicians affiliated with Memorial Hermann may prescribe additional treatments or procedures, which might include:
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