The arteries are those blood vessels through which blood flows away from the heart. They carry the nutrients and oxygen from your heart throughout the rest of your body. Healthy arteries are able to handle the blood pressure that flows through them because they are flexible and elastic. However, there are many things that can change the health of your arteries. High blood pressure can cause the arteries to become stiff and hard, or fat can build up on the walls of the arteries. The result of these hardened arteries is that blood flow is restricted or reduced to the various organs of the body. This is called arteriosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries.
Arteriosclerosis is a progressive condition, meaning that it does not happen all at once. It can begin as early as childhood, and can be contributed to by factors such as family history. It often gets worse when an individual reaches their twenties, then gets even more severe in the forties and fifties. It is fairly common, with over seventy five percent of heart related deaths being attributed to arteriosclerosis.
There are actually several types of arteriosclerosis, but the most common is atherosclerosis. This is the buildup of fats on the walls of the arteries. When the fat build up bursts it causes a blood clot, which can cause stroke or heart attack. Atherosclerosis most often affects those arteries related to the heart, but can also affect any other artery in the body. When it is the arteries of the heart the person is at risk of heart attack, and when it is the arteries of the brain they are in risk of having a stroke.
Causes and Symptoms
Arteries harden for different reasons, and there is no one exact cause of arteriosclerosis. It is suspected that it starts as damage to the interior of the artery. This damage can occur due to high blood pressure, nicotine, high cholesterol, or diabetes. Whichever causes the damage, platelets, or blood cells, attack the artery trying to repair it, which causes inflammation. As time progresses, fats and cholesterol also accumulate at the site of the injury, causing the passageway to become narrow as it hardens. This can cause further complications such as blood clots that can travel to the organs and cause damage or heart attacks.
There are many factors that contribute to arteriosclerosis. Some factors can be changed and others cannot. Factors you can change include high blood pressure and cholesterol, obesity, lack of exercise, smoking and an unhealthy diet. Factors you cannot change include age, gender, genetics and race.
Getting Rid of Arteriosclerosis
The main goal of trying to get rid of arteriosclerosis is to keep fatty deposits from accumulating in the arteries. There are several things you can do to do this. First, you can change your diet and eat healthy. This means a low fat, low cholesterol diet. Primarily you need to avoid saturated and Trans fats. Instead eat more fruits and vegetables.
Another thing you can do is exercise. This is the best way to improve circulation and prevent heart related diseases, including arteriosclerosis. You should also watch your weight, as obese individuals tend to have more problems with hardened arteries. Quitting smoking will also help, as nicotine hardens the arteries as well. There are also medications you can take that assist with arteriosclerosis.