Atherosclerosis is currently the underlying cause of roughly 50% of deaths in Western Countries.1 It is a form of chronic inflammatory heart disease which slowly hardens the arteries in the body. Experts agree that it is best to check for symptoms immediately.
With over 800,000 Americans having a heart attack every year, there has never been more importance on detecting the early warning signs.2 Knowing how to safeguard your health is of upmost importance in the modern world.
What Is Atherosclerosis Exactly?
This form of chronic inflammatory heart disease occurs when cholesterol, fats and other harmful substances buildup inside and around your artery walls. The build up of this tissue is called plaque and in time this plaque can cause your arteries to narrow blocking blood flow. This plaque tissue can even burst at some points which can lead to blood clots. If atherosclerosis affects the artery pathways to your heart this is known as coronary artery disease which is the number 1 killer in all of America.
Who Is Most At Risk Of Atherosclerosis?
It is estimated that over 18 million Americans over 20 have heart disease conditions. Spanning such a wide age group this form of heart disease can affect anyone. However more men each year die from coronary related disease. Women after menopause have higher risk of developing atherosclerosis as their body undergoes hormonal changes. If you tick any of the following boxes you could be more at risk of already developing atherosclerosis.
Aged Over 50: The majority of cases of this disease are found in over 50 year olds in both male and female patients.
Genetic History: If you have a history of heart disease or heart attacks in your family you’re at a higher risk of developing lethal plaque tissue.
Overweight or Obese: Carrying extra weight in the body puts extra strain on the heart muscle and poor diet choices can lead to faster plaque development.
Smoking And Alcohol: Consistent use of cigarettes and alcohol has been shown to increase factors leading to artery blocking.
High Blood Pressure: With the narrowing walls of the artery tissue there is already restricted blood flow. Having high blood pressure increases the chances of rupturing the plaque and causing blood clots in the body. This can result in sudden heart attacks or strokes.
The Early Warning Signs You Need To Know
Many people diagnosed with atherosclerosis actually were unaware they had been developing this condition. Symptoms are hard to judge until an artery is in fact narrowed or clogged and begins to put pressure on blood supply in the body. However if you’re feeling any of the following its recommended to consult your doctor immediately.
Chest Pain or Pressure: If there is any pain in the chest area or a pressurised feeling this may be an early sign of blocked arteries.
Numbness in Limbs: Experiencing numb feelings or even weakness in the arms or legs may be a sign that atherosclerosis in the arteries is causing disruption to the brain. This could also be felt as pain in the legs when walking or sitting down for long times.
Slurred Speech: Noticing a slurring of the speech is an immediate indicator that something is wrong internally. Drooping of any facial muscles and the oncoming of any speech problems is a big indicator to get your heart pathways checked.
Headaches, Confusion or Dizziness: Encountering headaches and sudden confusion or dizzy spells could be an indication of blood pressure problems in the body. If these are conditions you experience with blurry vision you need to consult a doctor immediately.
Upon visiting a doctor a range of exams can be performed to diagnose this coronary heart disease condition. Often a doctor will perform a physical exam and ask questions about family history, exercise programs and other diet or lifestyle questions. The following tests may be required by your doctor or if you’re referred to a Cardiologist (heart specialist).
Blood Test: A simple indicator of blood sugar and cholesterol levels in the bloody can help to identify any plaque in the arteries. A specific part of the test known as CRP or C-Reactive protein can indicate if there is any inflammation in the arteries.
ECG or Electrocardiogram: A simple test that is used all the time in the medical world is an ECG. This test measures and records electrical signals passed to your heart to indicate how it is working.
ABI or Ankle Brachial Index: If atherosclerosis is thought to be built up in the arteries of the legs or feet this type of test is specific to this area. Measuring the blood pressure in your ankle and arm can indicate whether there is any abnormalities in this region.
Coronary Calcium Scans: Another common test which uses a computer scanning system on the heart. It gives a detailed picture of all the arteries leading into your heart and indicates if there is any calcium deposits (plaque) in the artery walls.
Preventing Atherosclerosis Is Your Best Defence
Now its important to know we can’t really predict who will have a heart attack, but it doesn’t necessarily mean this disease is random. Taking care of your heart with lifestyle choices can dramatically reduce your chances of developing heart disease conditions. Emphasis on fresh and quality foods like fruits and vegetables, omega 3 fish, quality farm raised meats and plenty of water is a great diet for combatting heart disease. A simple list to help defend your heart is:
Moderate exercise 4-5x a week for 30 minutes or more. This activity can include even walking, riding a bike, swimming, yoga, meditation or any other activity you enjoy to move the body.
Quitting smoking and Limiting Alcohol use.
Improving Your Diet – Focusing on healthy fresh foods can help to breakdown and reduce the amount of unhealthy cholesterol in your blood.
Reducing Stress – limiting and reducing stress in the body helps to lower blood pressure and other stress hormones such as cortisol. Finding ways to relax such as yoga or meditation, a hot bath or a walk outside can drastically improve blood pressure.
Use The Sauna To Protect Your Heart
Scientists have discovered that using a sauna for 15 to 20 minutes 3 times a week can dramatically cut down risk of heart disease. In fact a 50% lower risk for fatal heart disease has been measure.3
A Doctors Checkup Could Save Your Life
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms or have been an avid smoker and drinker your life it is paramount to be checked by a doctor. A simple blood test could literally save your life from any sudden stroke or heart attack. With half of all deaths in Western countries coming from atherosclerosis related heart disease its never been more important to check now. Treatments are available and together we can keep on top of this overwhelming killer.