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Causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of atherosclerosis

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What is atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is a chronic disease of the blood vessels, which on their inner wall deposited "bad" cholesterol and other LDL in the form of raids and platelets, and the walls thicken and lose their elasticity. The vessels gradually become hard due to deposition of fats and lime on the walls, lose elasticity and, as a consequence, constrict, which decreases blood flow to the organs. In the end, the vessel may be closed. And when that is accompanied by a bleeding disorder, then there is a tendency to thrombosis and occur ischemic organ damage.

Atherosclerosis is considered to be one of the most dangerous diseases that leads to death. Recognized atherosclerosis, most often when already there are problems with the blood supply of the heart, limbs and brain, i.e. the disease is diagnosed at later stages. Atherosclerosis is one of the main reasons for the development of cardiovascular diseases: ischemic heart disease and myocardial infarction.

The percentage of people with atherosclerosis increases depending on their age, i.e., this disease is typical for elderly people. Therefore, the doctors call it senile disease, but every year it is getting younger, which is associated with modern lifestyle.

The symptoms of atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis — a systemic disease, therefore, usually affects all major blood highways of the body. From this it follows that the manifestations also diverse. Suffer, as a rule, heart, brain, legs (mostly lower). Symptoms specific, but not always shown clearly enough to clearly diagnose atherosclerosis.

The symptoms depend on which organ suffers from a lack of blood circulation to a greater extent. In any form of atherosclerosis there are two symptomatic period. In the preclinical period, the process is just beginning,therefore, any specific manifestations are absent. Significant problems with blood flow and organ function begin when the artery is closed more than 1/2.


Heart pain occurs with a frequency of 75%. Atherosclerosis affects the coronary vessels and decreases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the myocardium. Heart is one of the most sensitive to changes in the intensity of the power bodies. On this indicator it concedes that perhaps the brain. However, the symptomatology develops immediately, it is important to correctly interpret the feelings of the patient.

Disruption of the normal blood supply to the heart is manifested stenokardicheskie syndrome.

Cardiac symptoms occur periodically and include:

  • Pain in the chest. Pressing, dull, aching or burning (which is characteristic of the ischemic process). Pain radiating to shoulder blade, left forearm, hand or fingers (for the entire length of the circulatory system);
  • Feeling pressure on the chest (as if put on the breast of a heavy load);
  • Pain when breathing (inhale and exhale);
  • Respiratory disorders.

Angina as characteristic for atherosclerosis syndrome, manifested paroxysmal. The attacks are accompanied by instability of blood pressure level.

Somewhat less atherosclerosis of coronary vessels manifest the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the lower jaw, ear, neck on the left side (irradiation, but in the opposite direction);
  • Pain in the back;
  • A feeling of weakness in the limbs;
  • Feeling cold, excessive sweating and chills ("goosebumps");
  • Tachycardia or bradycardia (rhythm disturbance of the heart);

  • Vomiting and nausea;

  • Confusion until its complete loss in a short period of time.

The intensity and frequency of symptoms depends on the degree of tension of the organism (stress, overeating, substance abuse, etc.).

Learn more: Atherosclerosis of the aorta of the heart

Upper and lower limbs

Symptoms of the following:

  • Feeling cold (chill) in the hands or feet;
  • The feeling in the arms or legs run "goose bumps", as after a long stay in the same uncomfortableposition ("flow");
  • Pale skin: the skin takes the livid color and is clearly visible vascular pattern (leather marble color).

In the later stages of atherosclerosis of vessels of extremities comes the more severe manifestations:

  • The degeneration of the tissues that receive insufficient quantity of necessary substances (thinning of the fat layer, the deadweight loss of hair);
  • Pain in the extremities. In the case of lesions of the arteries of the legs, there is a so-called "intermittent claudication". Localized pain in the hips, buttocks and legs and are paroxysmal in nature, resulting in the patient begins to limp;
  • Education on the leg wounds (venous ulcersassociated with malnutrition tissue);

  • Redness of the fingers on the feet or hands, the development of persistent edema;

  • Necrosis of the tissues (gangrene).

Find out more: Obliterating atherosclerosis of lower limb arteries

The brain

To eating disorders it is most receptive, however, the primary symptoms are characteristic not only for atherosclerosis. So, the problems with the cerebral circulation observed in the degenerative disc disease, vertebrobasilar insufficiency, etc.

Symptoms appear gradually, incrementally:

  • Cephalalgia (headache or unspecified nature). Covers your entire head without the ability to determine the exact localization. Has arching or oppressive in nature;
  • Ringing noise in the ears;

  • Sleep problems. People suffering from insomnia, or Vice versa, it is constantly sleepy. During sleep, often have heavy or nightmares (which is associated with the activity of the brain and diffuse changes due to lack of blood circulation);

  • The deterioration of a person's character (personality changes);
  • Nervousness, high excitability, increased anxiety;
  • Lethargy and fatigue;
  • Violation of basic body functions: breathing, speech, nutrition. A person can speak vaguely, often choked food, etc.;
  • Violation of coordination of movements, problems with independent movement and orientation in space (due to lesions of the cerebellum).

Find out more:Cerebral atherosclerosis of cerebral vessels

The causes of atherosclerosis

Causes of atherosclerosis are high blood pressure, Smoking, diabetes, increased cholesterol level in the blood. But the main cause of atherosclerosis involves abnormal cholesterol metabolism. Formation of atherosclerosis is a natural process that starts with approximately 10-15 years. With age, it can slow and perhaps accelerating.

There are the following risk factors of atherosclerosis:

  • Paul. Men are more prone to atherosclerosis than women. The first signs of this disease can manifest itself from the age of 45, and even earlier, women – 55 years. Perhaps this is due to the more active participation of estrogens in the metabolism of cholesterol and lipoproteins of low and very low density;
  • Age. This is a natural risk factor. With age, atherosclerotic manifestations are compounded;
  • Heredity. Of course, this is one of the causes of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis – nagorichino disease. Therefore, the level of hormonal, hereditary dyslipoproteinemia (impaired lipid profile of plasma), the activity of the immune system play important roles in accelerating or slowing the development of atherosclerosis;

  • Bad habits. Smoking is a poison to the body. This habit is another cause of atherosclerosis. Want to have healthy blood vessels – quit Smoking! As for alcohol, there is an interesting relationship: the use of small doses of alcohol – about 50 grams of vodka, 100 g of wine or 0,5 l beer daily, are an excellent prevention of atherosclerosis. However, the same dose contributes to the development of liver cirrhosis. So one cure – another cripple. But large doses of alcohol accelerate the development of atherosclerosis;
  • Weight. This factor increases the likelihood of atherosclerosis. Obesity can lead to diabetes, and this disease is a direct path to atherosclerosis;

  • An improper diet. Oily, junk food is a major risk factor. Eating is a very important physiological process in our lives. How useful used products will depend on our future health. Few people know thatno diet, in addition to medical and balanced diets, endorsed by the world Council for food hygiene. To eat rationally and adequately to their needs and energy costs.

The average Japanese life span is 90 years old, and Russians – about 60. Why such a difference? The answer is simple: look at what to eat Japanese and other Oriental peoples. Their menu includes a variety of grains, vegetables, herbs, beans and fresh fish. Daily market in Tokyo is filled with seafood, which contains valuable fatty acids. Why treat the disease if it is easier to avoid? Start to eat right from an early age to old age myself to say thank you for it.

Types of atherosclerosis

  • Atherosclerosis of heart vessels (coronary arteries). Contributes to the development of coronary artery disease, angina and heart attack;
  • Aortic form. Aorta — the largest artery in the body. Failure atherosclerosis significantly affects all organs and systems;
  • Atherosclerosis of renal vessels. The lack of blood circulation leads to disturbances in the renal function and severe arterial hypertension;
  • Atherosclerosis of the blood vessels providing blood flow to the brain;
  • Atherosclerosis of the lower and upper extremities.

Forms may occur independently but often do it systematically.

Cholesterol and atherosclerosis

Cholesterol is a special chemical compound that is by nature fatty alcohol. Proved the role of cholesterol in the synthesis of cellular structures and organelles (cholesterol, known to be involved in the formation of cell membranes). However, the increase in the level of a substance in the blood directly increases the risk of atherosclerotic disease and other cardiovascular diseases, as it indicates the onset of lipid and lipoproteina metabolism in the body.

To prevent the development of this terrible disease is possible only by abandoning bad habits and by maintaining the concentration of fatty alcohol in the blood at the same normal level constantly. However, cholesterol is only atherogenic in excess.

Normal its content is necessary not only for the execution of structural function, but also:

  • For normal digestion. With the participation of the fatty alcohol inthe liver synthesizes digestive juices necessary for processing fat-containing compounds;
  • For the stable synthesis of sex hormones and hormones of the pancreas.

In the bloodstream cholesterol comes in several ways:

  • Is synthesized in the liver. The liver produces most cholesterol. Usually more active development due to the lack of connections and inability to make up its cholesterol from food. When disorders of liver function are also possible disruptions and problems with the regulation of the level of substances in the blood;
  • Comes with used in food products. So cholesterol is not more than 25%. Cholesterol is found in products, having in its composition of animal fats. The highest concentration observed in egg yolks, organ meats (brain, liver, kidneys), shrimp, margarine, bacon. They contained cholesterol enters the blood in a free state and then transferred by chylomicrons to the liver, where, depending on the functional characteristics of the organism and a normal diet turns into lipoproteidnyi complexes of two types: "good"(or HDL) and"bad" (LDL). First cleanse blood vessels from deposits of fat, and the second they are formed.

In addition, the cholesterol is synthesized and actively used by the body, it also actively excreted beyond. Most of the connection comes the natural way through the digestive tract. Slightly fewer displayed by dying (shedding) of the upper layers of the skin and intestinal mucous membranes.

Elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood proportionally increases the risk of atherosclerosis – a phrase we often hear, but is it really? Research from the journal "Neurology". Norm of cholesterol in blood is not a warranty or insurance against the formation of pathology for other reasons.

Atherosclerosis is directly linked to the presence of concomitant diseases (hypertension, obesity, neuroendocrine form of hypothalamic syndrome, diabetes, substance dependence, etc.). They are equivalent to risk factors for the development of the disease.

Anyway, but cholesterol plays in the development of atherosclerosis a key role. To reduce the risk, you must adhere to gipoholesterinovu diet and to maintain the concentration of the substance at approximately the same normal level.

Learn more: high cholesterol – what are the reasons? What is the norm? How to reducecholesterol?

Atherosclerosis and diabetes

Cholesterol is actively involved in the synthesis of digestive juices and hormones of the pancreas, and despite the fact that he is not the cause of diabetes is still significantly affects the course of the disease.

Diabetes is considered a high-risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis (more than half of the increased likelihood of development). Also atherosclerosis increases the severity of diabetes. In the presence of diabetes, the incidence of atherosclerosis is set equal boundaries for both men and women (although without diabetes more common in males).

Diabetes, in turn, seriously complicates the course of atherosclerosis:

  • Atherosclerosis can be formed, and at a young age, if you have diabetes. Although usually the disease develops after 45-50 years of age;
  • The probability of occurrence of aneurysms;
  • Vessels are not only clogged, but also become very brittle, therefore increasing the likelihood of strokes;
  • The process acquires a systemic character, is equally hard hitting and heart, and brain, and limbs.

Atherosclerosis begins and at the diabetes and diabetes of the second type. Diabetes is associated with impaired digestion and lipid metabolism, and this leads to stop normal metabolism. Blood vessels become excessively high permeability to rich fractions, in this connection, in the blood stream penetrates far more "bad cholesterol". It forms on the walls of the larger arteries of fat deposits, gradually closing the gaps to the trunk.

Over time the layering of fat is encapsulated by connective tissue and kristallizuetsya under the influence of calcium deposits. This entire structure becomes "cameristele" and the artery is closed even more. The vessel becomes brittle and loses its conductive function. The result is poor circulation in the affected area, increasing ischemia, the rupture of the vessel and tissue necrosis.

Patients with diabetes, 4 times more often in parallel suffer from cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, coronary heart disease and angina. In addition, atherosclerosis in diabetics is almost seven times increases the likelihood of rapid development of necrosis (gangrene) of the lower extremities. These factors need to be considered in the treatment.

Find out more: Causes, signs and symptoms of diabetes. Causes of dry mouth

How dangerous is atherosclerosis? Stage of development


According to statistics, arteriosclerosis — most common disease of the cardiovascular system and the main cause of death of the vast majority of patients around the world. Atherosclerosis is a variable, and, despite the fact that the essence of disease is the narrowing or blockage of blood vessels, it significantly affects the entire body. The lack of blood circulation affects the heart, brain, abdominal organs, upper and lower (rare) limb. Violations of blood flow in the arteries affects the smaller blood vessels, causing secondary ischemia.

Atherosclerosis — disease polietiologic. Until the end of the specific cause is unknown, but it is known that the basis of the mechanism is a violation of lipid metabolism. This dysfunction is the trigger for the outbreak of a dangerous disease.

In the development of pathology have identified a number of stages:

  • The step of forming the spots of fat (or lipid stains). At this stage, no specific symptoms were not observed, and the patient is unaware of the presence of atherosclerosis. The essence stage is to diffuse changes in the arterial walls (molecules lipoproteidnyi complexes penetrate the arterial wall and form a thin layer). Externally, these changes appear as yellowish-brown stripes along the length of the affected portion of the vessel. Affected not the whole fabric of blood highway, and only a few segments. The process is fast enough. Accelerate its existing cardiovascular pathology, diabetes and obesity;
  • Stage in the formation of lipid layers. The fabric under the bands of the lipid bands inflamed. This way the body is trying to fight off an imaginary intruder. Formed long-foci of chronic inflammation. Constant inflammation leads to degradation of the lipid layer and germination tissue. In the result of fat accumulation is encapsulated and extends above the wall of the artery;
  • The stage of development of complications. This is the last stage in the formation of atherosclerosis. At this stage, develop complications, and the symptoms are manifested most clearly. There are two basic complications: rupture of the encapsulated fatty deposits (plaque) that leads to the emission of large amounts of blood, clots. Blood clots with platelets get stuck in the lumen of the vessel finally clog it. In such a situation may develop stroke. If the clots block major arteries, which give necessary nourishment to the limbs, most likely will come tissue necrosis and gangrene.

Time andthe rapidity of development of atherosclerosis is pretty hard to predict. We can talk about years or a few months. It all depends on the peculiarities of metabolism, metabolic rate, presence of predisposition to atherosclerosis and diseases, increase the risk of its development, and many other factors.

Diagnosis of atherosclerosis

To diagnose a running atherosclerosis is relatively easy. Quite another thing — to clarify the localization process and accurately identify the lesion. For this you need to do a lot of work. With such a complex task can handle only an experienced doctor.

Diagnostic activities include:

  • History
  • Initial examination of the patient with the use of special functional tests;
  • Laboratory tests and instrumental investigations. They can be used to establish the fact of presence of the disease, determine the stage and localization process, to assess the overall condition of the patient.


The primary analysis of the patient's condition begins with his survey on the subject of the complaints, and heredity.

First, in this pathology in the anamnesis will be at least three specific symptom, on top of that with high probability there will be signs (and maybe a confirmed diagnosis) of the disease-provocateur of atherosclerosis.

Among them:

  • Arterial hypertension;
  • Previously suffering a myocardial infarction or stroke;
  • Stenokardicheskie syndrome, coronary artery disease;
  • Pathology of the kidneys.

This diagnosis does not give a complete picture, however, allows you in General to determine the condition of the body and to make a plan of diagnostic procedures.

In addition, it is important to establish the presence of risk factors for atherosclerosis: diabetes, hypertension, substance use, obesity.

Primary inspection

In addition to functional tests, aimed at assessing the blood supply to the limbs, an experienced doctor pays careful attention to the following factors:

  • The disappearance of hair on the feet or hands;

  • Sudden decline of body weight of the patient;

  • Heart murmur, high blood pressure, heart rhythm disorders;

  • Hyperfunction of the sweat and sebaceous glands;

  • Deformation of the nails;

  • Continuous development of edema in the absence of kidney disease.

Laboratory and instrumental methods

  • Surrender of venous blood for assessment of such indicators as the coefficient for haemoglobin, totalcholesterol;
  • X-ray and angiography. X-ray allows to assess the condition of the aorta, as plaques are clearly visible in the pictures. Angiography involves injection into the bloodstream of a special contrast medium and the further observation of the blood flow;
  • Ultrasound. Allows to estimate the blood flow velocity in different parts of the artery. This method can detect the slightest deviation and to determine the degree of insufficiency of blood supply.

There are other ways to diagnose. Specific methods determined by the physician based on the clinical picture.

Modern methods of treatment

As a rule, 80% of the cases medical therapy is sufficient to correct the cause of atherosclerosis and its disastrous consequences. Treatment with special drugs can be combined with the appointment of a diet and optimal physical activity.

Among the drugs from atherosclerosis can distinguish drugs of several groups:

  • Statins. The most popular statins are still used. Their action is inhibition of the liver in production of cholesterol. In parallel with statins patients with atherosclerosis prescribe medicines to maintain the activity of the heart and of the digestive system (as statins had the most negative effect on them). At the modern stage of development of medicine solid academics and practitioners have questioned not only the effectiveness of statins, but the fact of the role of cholesterol in the development of atherosclerosis, considering the danger of this substance is unreasonably high. Read more about the statins and fibrates;

  • LCD sekvestranty. Significantly inhibit the function of the synthesis of bile acids by the liver. In this regard, the body has to actively expend cholesterol, to ensure the normal and stable digestion. Long-term use possible violations of the digestive system. Appointed at the early stages of the disease or to prevent disease;
  • The fibrates. Destroy neutral fat structure of triglycerides. Quite effective in the fight against atherosclerosis, but is absolutely contraindicated in persons with liver problems;
  • Nicotinic acid drugs. Despite the fact that cholesterol they are not fighting, have vasodilating and antispasmodic effect. Used in combination with other medications and are an importantpart of drug therapy. However, diabetics and those with liver disease and gall bladder, nicotine contraindicated. To replace them come specialised vasodilator and antispasmodic medications.

Conservative treatment includes physiotherapy. This method shows individuals with atherosclerosis of the extremities.

Learn more: List of drugs to improve the functioning of the brain

Surgical treatment

In modern medical practice has been the development of three main methods of surgical treatment of atherosclerosis.


  • Bypass. The essence of the bypass surgery is the suturing of the affected vessel to a healthy, developing a new blood line, and blood flow to the tissues is gradually restored;
  • Vascular prosthesis. Modern materials allow completely to replace the affected vessel to restore the function of the blood supply.

Minimally invasive method:

  • Angioplasty. The method consists in the introduction through the femoral artery of a specialized catheter, which is under the control of the camera moves through the blood stream as a endoscopist to the affected area. After that, made the necessary manipulations for cleaning up or widening of the blood vessel.

Thus, atherosclerosis is an extremely controversial and complex disease, which, however, requires maximum attention, because it can cause dangerous to life and health. Symptoms of the disease are severe, and with the right level of training the doctor will easily establish the diagnosis, but also determines the localization process and appoint competent and effective treatment. This helps the doctor a wide Arsenal of means and methods for diagnosing atherosclerosis even in its early stages. A specific strategy to survey the technician will install itself on the basis of their appropriateness and the degree of confidence in diagnosis.

Treatment of atherosclerosis at the present stage of development of medicine does not present great difficulties. In the vast majority of cases it is possible to manage "with small losses". If conservative treatment efficiency should not have to resort to surgery.

A correct and reliable diagnosis together with effective treatment is the key to a favorable outcome.

Find out more: the 4 most essential (medical) product atherosclerosis


First of all, Smoking cessation, weight management, certain restrictions in food, increasing physical activity:

  • To maintain the body and prevention of atherosclerosis should eat foods with reduced salt content and cholesterol. Eat grains, vegetables like: carrots, eggplant, leeks, garlic, boiled fish, yogurt, sunflower oil and, of course, any berries and fruits. In a large number of eat the plants of the red-red colors – for example, hawthorn, Rowan, wild strawberry, viburnum, tansy , etc.;

  • Regulation of body weight in atherosclerosis is a necessary measure, since obesity causes cardiovascular complications and is characterized by impaired lipid metabolism. For weight loss are recommended low-calorie diets with optimal fat and physical activity;
  • Physical activity should be increased given the General state of health and age. Start it with the most safe and affordable physical activity – walk. Classes must be at least three or four times a week for 35-40 minutes.