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Coronary atherosclerosis is a medical condition in which a person's arteries become clogged with cholesterol, calcium, and cellular waste. As material builds up on the inner lining of arterial blood vessels, it tends to harden and constrict blood flow. An individual with atherosclerosis is at a very high risk of developing severe and even fatal complications, including coronary artery disease, angina, heart attacks, and strokes. Problems can arise from a number of factors, including a poor diet, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, and inherited genetic tendencies toward heart and artery problems. Many people are able to relieve their symptoms by making healthy lifestyle changes and taking prescription cholesterol-lowering medication, though some require surgery to clear the arteries and promote recovery.
The body uses cholesterol to produce important hormones, form bile, and solidify cell membranes. Cholesterol is transported through the blood to cellular material throughout the body, but if there is too much cholesterol in the bloodstream, it begins to build up in the arteries and trap other non-soluble particles, like calcium. A thick, hard substance known as plaque will then coat the interior lining of arteries, constricting blood flow and increasing the likelihood of dangerous blood clots.
An individual with coronary atherosclerosis might not notice symptoms until a dangerous amount of plaque has built up in his or her arteries. People with this condition often experience difficulty breathing, irregular heart rate, and high blood pressure. Left untreated, individuals may suffer from strokes, edema in their extremities, severe chest pains, coronary artery disease, or even complete heart failure. A person who experiences shortness of breath or angina symptoms should contact a medical professional immediately to obtain a proper diagnosis and initiate treatment.
Healthcare professionals usually check for signs of buildup in the arteries by conducting physical examinations, ordering blood tests to determine cholesterol levels, and analyzing echocardiograph scans to look for blockages. If excessive plaque is discovered, they usually suggest changes in diet and exercise routines to promote better health. The medical professional may also prescribe medications to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. A patient with advanced coronary atherosclerosis may need to undergo surgery, such as an arterial bypass or angioplasty, where arteries are widened and cleared of debris.
Preventing this condition and its resulting health concerns is not always possible, but certain steps can be taken to significantly reduce the risk of developing problems. Individuals can maintain healthy diets, exercise regularly, avoid smoking, and limit their intake of alcohol. It is especially important for people with family histories of heart problems and those with high blood pressure or diabetes to maintain healthy lifestyles and schedule regular checkups with a medical professional.