The term atherosclerosis refers to a condition in which fatty deposits build up in and on the artery walls, interfering with the normal flow of blood and oxygen throughout the body. When this happens, the heart has to work harder to pump blood through the narrowed blood vessels, and a heart attack or a stroke may result.
Studies have indicated that certain foods and lifestyle habits carry a greater risk of developing atherosclerosis. For example, cigarette smoking can increase the clogging of arteries. Other factors that are likely to contribute to atherosclerosis include:
- high fat levels in the blood, including high cholesterol;
- high blood pressure;
- and diabetes.
The symptoms of atherosclerosis depend on the part of the body where the condition is taking place. Sometimes there aren’t any noticeable symptoms until the condition has advanced to a very serious stage. When the arteries of the heart are affected, one of the first symptoms is chest pain, often called angina. A person with clogged arteries of the heart may also have occasional difficulty in breathing and may experience unusual fatigue after short periods of exertion.
Atherosclerosis is a dangerous, life-threatening condition, but may be prevented or slowed down through a proper diet, regular exercise and other lifestyle changes.
If you experience chest pains on a regular basis or have other specific symptoms of atherosclerosis, see your healthcare provider for a thorough examination. With proper diagnosis and treatment, you can prevent atherosclerosis from doing further damage and possibly avoid a heart attack or stroke.