5 Signs of Atherosclerosis

Chest pain and shortness of breath are scary symptoms to deal with, because they can be signs of a problem with your heart. However, what’s causing you to have these symptoms? It could be a heart attack, or it could be another condition known as atherosclerosis. This condition isn’t something you want to ignore.

At Lakewood Cardiovascular Consultants, our team helps you sort through your symptoms to figure out what’s going on with your body. Dr. Erick Calderon is our board-certified cardiologist and he helps you determine if you’re at risk for heart disease or atherosclerosis. Accompanied by adult nurse practitioner Cynthia Bosch, Dr. Calderon gets you the treatment you need.

What is atherosclerosis?

The blood vessels in your body are essential for getting oxygenated blood to not only your brain and heart, but the rest of your body too. These blood vessels, or arteries, are typically very flexible. However, as time goes on, they can become thick and stiff. This condition is known as arteriosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a specific branch of arteriosclerosis that’s caused by an unhealthy buildup of cholesterol and fats in your arteries. The buildup is also known as plaque, and leads to thick and stiff arteries. Atherosclerosis can also narrow your arteries because of the buildup of plaque, which leads to decreased oxygenated blood flow to your body over time.

This condition affects not only the arteries near your heart, but just about every artery in your body. This means decreased blood flow to your brain and your extremities. So why is this a problem? Plaque can break off, causing blood clots, which leads to stroke if it’s in your brain, or a heart attack if it’s in your heart.

Atherosclerosis is a condition that worsens over time, so knowing the signs and symptoms early can save you from complications later.

5 warning signs

Atherosclerosis is known as a silent disease, meaning that your symptoms often don’t show up until there’s a blockage in your arteries. Although this is a little unsettling, there are signs that can point to atherosclerosis. Five of the most common symptoms include:

1. Chest pain

This occurs when atherosclerosis affects the arteries in your heart. When the vessels become narrow because of this disease, blood flow is restricted to your heart, which leads to chest pain, also known as angina. 

2. High blood pressure

This symptom is because of atherosclerosis in the arteries that connect to your kidneys. The affected vessels cause increased pressure to push through the more narrow arteries, leading to high blood pressure. If this isn’t treated, it also may lead to kidney failure.

3. Confusion

Atherosclerosis also affects the arteries that go into your brain. Because these arteries become hardened and narrowed, blood flow decreases to your brain. This leads to a variety of signs, such as confusion or slurred speech. These could be signs of a mini-stroke. If not treated, this often leads to a stroke.

4. Muscle weakness

This symptom is due to the decreased blood flow in your arteries due to atherosclerosis. It’s especially prominent in your legs because of how far the oxygenated blood needs to travel to get there. When your arteries are thickened with plaque, it may lead to weakness. 

5. Pain in your arms or legs

Peripheral artery disease is a problem that affects both your arms and legs, especially if you suffer from atherosclerosis. It causes pain in the affected extremities during activity, like walking. It may also lead to decreased blood pressure due to the narrowed vessels.

Tips to prevent atherosclerosis

This condition, if left untreated, leads to very serious health problems. These health problems are severe and can be fatal, so it’s important to see Dr. Calderon at the first sign of atherosclerosis. Some of the medical problems that this condition leads to include:

These conditions lead to heart attack or stroke, both of which can have lasting effects on your health. To prevent this, you not only need to get treatment from Dr. Calderon, but also make some lifestyle changes to prevent the condition from worsening. 

Simple changes to your daily life help to not only lessen your risk of complications from this disease, but also to treat existing atherosclerosis. Some of the changes you can make include:

You also want to keep an eye on your blood sugar levels and your cholesterol levels. These are something that Dr. Calderon checks with routine blood work. 

Don’t let your symptoms become something worse; if you’re worried about atherosclerosis, come see Dr. Calderon at our office in Sarasota County, Florida. Call us or request an appointment online.

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