Arteriosclerosis is medical speak for a disease marked by hardening of the arteries. In other words, artery walls become more stiff and thick resulting in less flexibility and elasticity. The primary health concern for this hardening is that the flow of blood containing oxygen and nutrients becomes restricted.
A substantial restriction causes a maintenance problem, possibly death, to any organs and tissue downstream of the hardened artery. The inducements for an artery to eventually harden are build up of fatty deposits (aka atherosclerosis), calcification or muscle thickening due to chronic hypertension.
Generally, arteriosclerosis is a disease process that occurs gradually over time. And although hardening of the heart’s arteries receives most attention, arteriosclerosis can happen anywhere along the miles of these blood vessels in your body.
Arteriosclerosis disease symptoms vary based on where in your body an artery has hardened and to what extent. Typically, symptoms will not occur until the point of extreme narrowing. Here’s some examples of symptoms you may experience based on corresponding organ or artery:
- brain ~ stroke, TIA
- kidney ~ high blood pressure, kidney failure
- heart ~ angina, chest pain, dyspnea, sweating, heart attack, heart failure
- legs (PAD) ~ severe leg pain, particularly when walking or climbing stairs (intermittent claudication)
- carotid, vertebral ~ numbness, weakness, inability to speak, difficulty swallowing, blindness, paralysis
What exactly causes arteriosclerosis disease is unknown, yet there are some risk factors for it developing and progressing, such as:
- chronic high blood pressure
- chronic high blood cholesterol levels
- diet high in saturated fat & low in healthy fruits, vegetables
Treatment of arteriosclerosis usually requires some combination of lifestyle changes, drugs, angioplasty and surgery. Evidence suggests lifestyle changes by way of healthy diet, increased exercise and lower stress can actually reverse the initial stages of artery hardening. Never assume it’s too late for making these positively healthy changes since the extent of your disease likely differs for each affected artery.