Wide net of large and small vessels runs through your body, carrying blood from the heart to every cell and then returns it back to the heart. Arteries are vessels that delivery oxygen-rich blood to all organs. And veins gather deoxygenated blood from the organs in order to move it to the heart.
Everything goes well, when inner walls of the vessels are smooth and clean.
However in many of us (maybe in vast majority of people) vessels, particularly arteries, may become clogged by fatty plaques.
When cholesterol and fat stick to the artery's lining, immune system reacts to this foreign substances, triggering inflammatory process. Vessels, in turn, try to cope with inflammation and repair damaged tissue with fibrous material. With time, fat, immune cells and fibrous tissue form large plaques, which can narrow artery lumen.
This process is known as atherosclerosis.
It may occur anywhere in the body, but the most “favourite” places are heart (coronary arteries), neck (carotid arteries) and legs (peripheral arteries).
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Atherosclerosis is thought to be a normal part of ageing. In fact, it's not entirely true. The first plaques may appear in our 20s and grow slowly, without causing any symptoms.
In the 60s-70s, fatty plaques become large enough to cause serious health problems, such as stroke and heart attack. That's why ageing was recognized as significant risk factor for atherosclerosis.
Many of us live with clogged arteries but don't even know about it. The reason is that symptoms are absent until the artery becomes extremely narrow or blocked at all. This leads to reduction of the blood flow to certain parts of the body.
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Lack of oxygen results in dying cells that may become apparent in these signs and symptoms:
#1. Chest pain – when coronary arteries that normally carry blood to heart muscle, become clogged, you may suffer from chest pain and breathlessness during physical exertion. In advanced cases these symptoms appear even when you perform your daily activities like making a bed. Be aware that this condition is a predictor of life-threatening problems such as heart attack.
#2. Temporary stroke-like symptoms – extreme narrowing of carotid arteries may result in sudden numbness in the face or extremities (usually on one side of the body), difficulty speaking and understanding words, dizziness and abrupt severe headache, which go away within several seconds. This is medically called transient ischemic attack. It looks like stroke but symptoms are temporary. It's worth knowing that TIA often precedes full-fledged stroke that is a leading cause of disability in our modern society.
#3. Leg pain – there is really wide variety of factors, which can contribute to painful sensation in the lower limbs. Peripheral artery disease causes pain in the legs, which comes when you're walking and calms down at rest. If left untreated, pain may become constant and infected, non-healing wounds may appear on the skin of the legs.
#4. Impotence (in men) – erectile dysfunction is a common problem in men with peripheral artery disease, caused by reduced blood flow.
The BetterMe Team wants you and those close to you to live a healthy, happy life! Your health is a valuable thing; look after your body and your mind so that you can live your life to the fullest – Remember you only get one!
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