When our blood vessels (especially the arteries) become clogged by fatty plaques, our immune system reacts to these foreign substances, starting inflammatory processes.
Over time, the fat, fibrous tissue and immune cells can form large plaques. This leads to a condition that is known as atherosclerosis.
The heart (coronary arteries), legs (peripheral arteries) and neck (carotid arteries) are the most common targets.
Scientists still do not know what causes atherosclerosis, but they suggest that it is associated with the damage to the lining of the arterial wall.
That can be caused by:
- High blood pressure
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Cigarette smoke
- Family history
- Diabetes and increased blood sugar levels
- High “bad” cholesterol and low “good” cholesterol
Cholesterol, calcium, fat, cellular waste and fibrin are some of the substances responsible for the making of plaque accumulated on the inner arteries walls.
It is worth mentioning that the first fatty plaques can develop in the 20s and slowly grow as we get older. This, in turn, increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes in people in their 60s and 70s.
However, there are a lot of people who even don’t know that their arteries are clogged, until they start to experience more serious symptoms and health problems.
The following 4 symptoms are the most common ones that will help you treat the problem on time and prevent further health problems:
1. Chest pain
The coronary arteries that are responsible for carrying the blood to the heart muscle become clogged thus leading to lack of breath and chest pain.
2. Leg pain
Peripheral artery disease usually causes leg pain. If not treated on time, this can become chronic and lead to infected wounds that can’t be healed.
3. Impotence (in men)
Peripheral artery disease causes a reduced blood flow that can lead to erectile dysfunction in men.
4. Temporary stroke-like symptoms
Dizziness, severe headaches, difficulty speaking and understanding words and a sudden numbness in the face or extremities (usually on one side of the body) can be caused by the extreme narrowing of carotid arteries. This problem is known as a transient ischemic attack.