What is arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)

Arteriosclerosis is the main aging phenomenon of the arteries. It is a calcification of the arteries and should actually be called arteriosclerosis. More than half of all people die from a disease caused by arteriosclerosis.

How does arteriosclerosis begin?

It is still not entirely clear how atherosclerosis begins. It probably starts with the deposition of cholesterol on the inside of the blood vessel. This damages the inner cell layer of the blood vessel (endothelium). The platelets then stick to these damaged inner layers of the blood vessels. At the same time, the muscle wall of the blood vessel thickens and hardens.
By sticking the platelets and thickening the muscle wall, the blood vessel slowly becomes narrower. This process is usually so slow that the body itself starts looking for other ways to transport sufficient blood to all tissues. Natural diversions are then created. If this does not happen, and the calcification of the blood vessels occurs faster than the construction of other pathways, complaints may eventually arise.
Sometimes it happens that a clot suddenly forms (thrombus) in a place that is calcifying, which can close off almost the entire blood vessel. When an organ or tissue no longer receives blood, it can die; it becomes necrotic. Necrosis due to occlusion of a blood vessel is also called an infarction. If this occurs in the legs, we call it gangrene.
From such a place in the vein that is calcifying, and therefore the platelets are sticking, it can also happen that such a piece of stuck platelets comes loose (thrombus) and is transported by the veins to other parts of the vein . the body. If such a thrombus ends up in a vein that is narrower than the thrombus, the thrombus will close off the blood vessel.
Here too, a lack of oxygen occurs and the tissue or organ that no longer receives blood will die.
A detached thrombus is called an embolus. An arteriosclerotic blood vessel is no longer elastic. It has become brittle and brittle and can easily burst, resulting in internal bleeding. This is most common in the brain.

Symptoms of arteriosclerosis in various organs

In the brain

If a vessel in the brain narrows or becomes clogged due to arteriosclerosis, the brain ceases to function properly. Symptoms of the disease occur such as half-sided paralysis, speech disorders and half-sided loss of the visual field.
If these symptoms disappear within 24 hours, we call it a TIA (transient ischemic attack). A TIA is often a precursor of a CVA (cerbrovascular accident). A CVA is a permanent failure of a part of the brain. A CVA can be caused by a thrombosis, embolism or a cerebral hemorrhage.

In the heart

When the blood vessels of the heart clog due to arteriosclerosis, the pumping function of the heart is reduced, so the heart is less able to pump blood through the body. This can lead to heart failure. A local narrowing of one of the coronary arteries due to arteriosclerosis or thrombosis can cause heart complaints during exertion, this is called angina pectoris. If a blood vessel is completely blocked, we call it a heart attack.
In the leg
A partial blockage of an artery to the leg or the aorta can lead to intermittent claudication. The symptoms are a pinching pain in the calf, which always occurs after exertion and which immediately subsides when you rest. People who suffer from this always walk short distances and then take a break so that the pain can subside for a while. As the constriction in the vessel becomes fuller, the walking distances become shorter. When the vessel is almost closed, the pain often remains even at rest. When a blood vessel is completely blocked, part of the leg can become necrotic. Arteriosclerotic diseases in the leg are called peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

What are the risk factors for arteriosclerosis

  • age, it is actually a disease of aging
  • male gender
  • genetic predisposition
  • increased cholesterol levels in the blood.
  • high bloodpressure
  • smoking
  • overweight
  • too little exercise
  • diabetes
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