Paving the Path to Healthy Arteries: Understanding and Preventing Atherosclerosis

2023-08-18 08:13:13

Suncheon Lee / Director, Interventional Vascular Surgery, Gwangyang Sarang Hospital

Atherosclerosis (atherosclerosis) affects the whole body and can be a factor in the occurrence of life-threatening complications such as cerebral infarction (stroke, stroke), angina pectoris (myocardial infarction), and peripheral vascular disease.

Atherosclerosis is a term that combines hardening (hard) in a thick state like eating porridge, and it occurs in some of the blood vessels. Physical damage to the inner lining of arterial blood vessels (consisting of three layers: intima, media, and outer membrane) causes cholesterol, such as low-density lipoprotein (LDL), called bad cholesterol, to accumulate and cause an inflammatory reaction that swells like an icicle to form something called atheroma.

As the disease progresses, blood vessels harden and fibrous tissue is formed, narrowing (stenosis) and obstructing blood flow (occlusion), which is called atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is sometimes used interchangeably with arteriosclerosis and is a disease that occurs throughout our body.

Risk factors that cause damage to the arterial lining include hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, various inflammatory substances, bacterial products, cholesterol, sugar metabolites, and viruses, and lifestyle-related risk factors include smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity ( Lack of exercise), and foods that cause atherosclerosis.

When atherosclerosis progresses and more than 50% of the arterial lumen is narrowed, blood supply to the peripheral area is reduced and symptoms are usually not felt.

The patient does not experience any discomfort, but often has advanced atherosclerosis.

Therefore, many people go about their daily lives without realizing that they have severe atherosclerosis, which can cause symptoms of lack of blood in the heart, brain, and limbs and cause emergency diseases such as myocardial infarction or stroke.

Atherosclerosis is diagnosed by carrying out tests such as blood tests, exercise stress electrocardiograms, nuclear medicine tests, heart CT tests, coronary angiography, carotid ultrasound, MRI/A tests, Doppler tests, and extremity blood pressure tests, depending on the site of occurrence. .

In cases of cerebral infarction, the cerebral infarction site is diagnosed primarily through CT or MRI/A. Vascular examination (CT, MR angiography, angiography, carotid artery, transcranial Doppler ultrasonography) is used to find areas of narrowed blood vessels.

The most important thing in the treatment of atherosclerosis is lifestyle improvement. It is good to control your food intake and do moderate exercise.

If diagnosed with atherosclerosis, the patient’s own self-management, such as smoking cessation, low-fat diet, blood sugar control, and blood pressure control, is necessary to prevent progression. In addition to this, you need to receive appropriate treatment in the hospital.

If the stenosis due to atherosclerosis is not severe, preventive treatment is performed using anti-platelet drugs and drugs for hyperlipidemia.

If the stenosis is severe, it is difficult to expect recovery of the narrowed blood vessels with medication. It must be treated through interventional procedures or surgery. Interventional procedures include angioplasty and stent implantation using balloons to widen blood vessels. Surgical options include endarterectomy and arterial bypass surgery.

Treatment to prevent the progression of systemic atherosclerosis includes lifestyle management such as blood pressure management to maintain healthy blood vessels, smoking cessation, diabetes management, hyperlipidemia treatment, regular aerobic exercise and weight management, and fat intake restriction.

To prevent atherosclerosis, it is important to manage your lifestyle and food well.

As for food, it is recommended to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day and increase grain intake.

To maintain proper weight and health, it is recommended to reduce intake of calories and sugar, reduce intake of saturated fat and cholesterol, and reduce intake of salt and alcohol. Reduce your intake of fatty meats and eat lean meats whenever possible.

Finally, it is recommended to do at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day. Walking exercise is recommended, but if you walk steadily until the pain in the lower limbs occurs, the narrow blood vessels around the clogged blood vessels develop enough to handle the blood supply to some extent, and the walking distance can gradually increase.

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