When Your Arteries Harden

Carotid Endarterectomy Reno NVIn Reno, and across America, we don’t follow the best advice for what we eat and how much we exercise. The result is atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries. When the arteries in question are the ones carrying blood to the heart, this is known as coronary artery disease, and that would be the #1 killer of Americans.

One way we deal with this buildup in your arteries at Nevada Vein and Vascular is with a carotid endarterectomy, but we covered that back in a January blog.

This month, let’s get into atherosclerosis and why so many Americans have it.

Some scary facts

  • Over 90 million Americans have known cardiovascular disease.
  • Almost 800,000 Americans have a heart attack each year.
  • About one in seven U.S. deaths is caused by coronary heart disease.
  • Half of men with severe atherosclerosis have no symptoms.

How atherosclerosis causes heart attacks

Why does this happen? Why do our arteries harden and clog? It starts with the interior walls of our coronary arteries. These walls start out smooth, but they become damaged by high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, cigarette smoking, diabetes, and other reasons.

This damage allows bad cholesterol (LDL) to adhere to the walls of the coronary artery. The body senses this and sends white blood cells to clean up the artery. But this response results in plaque forming on the artery walls, along with continued cholesterol buildup.

These plaques can do different things in your coronary arteries.

  • For some lucky people, the plaques grow slowly and never cause a blockage or clot.
  • They can expand and decrease blood flow in a coronary artery, but you may not have any signs.
  • A blockage showing signs could result in a stable angina, where there is chest pain, but not a heart attack.
  • A plaque can rupture and this causes blood to clot quickly inside the coronary artery. This will make your chest hurt. At that point you’ll either have an unstable angina, where the clot dissolves without causing a hearth attack. Or you’ll have a heart attack, where the coronary artery is blocked by the clot and the heart muscle dies.

The best way to avoid this fate? Eat better foods with more fruits and vegetables and less processed junk and fast food. Get up and out there. Exercise doesn’t have to be painful, but there has to be some to lower your risk. And quit smoking.

If you wonder if a carotid endarterectomy or other procedure is in your future, call the team at Nevada Vein and Vascular and let’s take a look. Call us at (775) 323-3000 to make an appointment.

Posted in: Carotid Endarterectomy

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