Atherosclerosis is one of the key factors that contribute to Ischemic Heart Disease. It is the hardening and narrowing of the inner arterial walls of the arteries, which hinders the flow of blood to the body.
According to Beckerman, J (2016), arteries are lined by endothelium, which is a thin layer of cells that acts as a barrier between the lumen and the surrounding tissues that control the movement of white blood cells, in and out of the bloodstream. Atherosclerosis develops with the damage done to the endothelium. This is caused by high blood pressure, smoking, or high cholesterol. This leads to plague formation in the arteries. When bad cholesterol – also known as ‘Low-Density Lipoprotein’ (LDL), encounters the endothelium that is damaged, the cholesterol will enter the walls of the arteries.
Hence, plague forms and grows as atherosclerosis advances, narrowing the passage of blood flow (Beckerman, 2016). When the plague is large enough, it can create a blockage, not allowing the blood to flow throughout the body. This will not only endanger the heart and putting it at risk, it will also increase the chances of getting a stroke, a heart attack, and other health problems (Beckerman, 2016). Symptoms of atherosclerosis do not usually show until middle age or older.
However, as the passage of blood flow continue to severely narrow, it can obstruct blood flow and cause pain. It is also possible for the plague to suddenly rupture, and cause the blood to clot at the site of the rupture in an artery (Beckerman, 2016). In ischemic heart disease, the plagues in the arteries of the heart cause angina (chest pain). A sudden rupture of the plague and clotting of the blood, cause heart muscle to die. This is known as a heart attack. Atherosclerosis can worsen over time, but it is preventable. Once there is a blockage, it will generally stay for life. However, plagues could stop or slow their growth.
With aggressive treatment, they could even shrink a little. Lessening the risk components will slow or even stop the process. This means that there is a need of change in lifestyle (Beckerman, 2016). This includes a healthy diet, exercise, and no smoking. These changes will not remove the blockages, but they have been proven to lower the risks of heart attack. Taking medication for high cholesterol and high blood pressure will slow and could even halt atherosclerosis (Beckerman, 2016). This is also one of the ways that lower the risks of heart attacks.
Aside from medication, doctors would use invasive techniques to go around or open the blockages from atherosclerosis. One technique would be the angiography and stenting. A thin tube will be inserted into an artery in the arm or the leg, enabling the doctors to get to the affected arteries and see the blockages through a live X-ray screen.
Blocked arteries can often be opened by angioplasty – catheters with balloon tips, and stenting (Beckerman, 2016). Stenting helps to reduce the symptoms of atherosclerosis, but it cannot prevent future heart attacks (Beckerman, 2016). Another technique is – bypass surgery. Surgeons will take a healthy blood vessel often from the leg or the chest. They will use the healthy blood vessel to replace the ones that are damaged (Beckerman, 2016). This procedure can have complications such as – kidney failure and stroke (Beckerman, 2016).
Hence, it is only done when the blockage is too serious to be controlled with medication or other treatments.