Wednesday, 12 April 2017


Arteriosclerosis which is a combination of two Greek words, arteria (meaning artery) and skleros (meaning hard) is a general term used for hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis on the other hand is a form of arteriosclerosis. It is also made up of two Greek words, athere (meaning soft, fatty, gruel-like) and skleros (meaning hard) and it refers to the buildup of a waxy plaque on the inside of blood vessels.  Atherosclerosis is often called arteriosclerosis but really, it is a form of arteriosclerosis. It is not uncommon to find people using both terms synonymously probably due to the slight difference in their spellings, but it is noteworthy to state here that they are two different words, with their different meanings, although they have similar risk factors and treatments.  Both conditions will be referred to in the course of this article because they are interwoven.

Arteriosclerosis is the stiffening or hardening of the artery walls. Arteriosclerosis as a phenomenon may have been in existence since ancient times but nothing about its diagnostics and clinical implications were acknowledged until the 20th century. Although many cases have been observed and recorded, the term ‘arteriosclerosis’ was not used until Jean Fr├ęderic Martin Lobstein coined it in the course of analyzing the composition of calcified arterial lesions. An artery is a kind of blood vessel and it is composed of several layers: an internal lining called the endothelium, an elastic membrane that permits the artery to enlarge and contract, a layer of smooth muscle, and a layer of connective tissue. Arteriosclerosis is a broad term that means a hardening of the inner and middle layers of the artery. It is characterized by irregularly distributed lipid deposits in the intima of large and medium-sized arteries, leading to a narrowing of arterial lumens and resulting eventually to fibrosis and calcification. Restriction of blood flow gives rise to most clinical manifestations, which differ with the distribution and severity.

Atherosclerosis is the narrowing of the artery because of the build-up of plaque. Atherosclerosis is a specific form of arteriosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a chronic progressive disease of arteries which mainly occurs clinically as cardiovascular disease (CVD) events such as myocardial infarction and stroke. CVD is the foremost cause of death in many parts of the world while stroke accounts for the highest morbidity and mortality in sub Saharan Africa. In fact, the fundamental cause of most heart disease and the number one killer in developed nations has been said to be atherosclerosis. It is the common cause of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease, which are collectively referred to as cardiovascular disease.

In 2008, the United States of America had an estimation of 16 million atherosclerotic heart disease conditions and 5.8 million strokes. The cardiovascular diseases that resulted from arteriosclerosis also led to almost 812,000 deaths in 2008, more than any other cause, including cancer. Approximately 1.2 million Americans are predicted to suffer a heart attack each year.
An important question to ask is those who are at risk of this deadly condition. It starts early. Autopsies of young soldiers who died in the Korean and Vietnam wars showed that half to three-quarters of them had early forms of atherosclerosis. Even today, a considerable number of young people without symptoms have evidence of atherosclerosis. A study of 262 apparently healthy people's hearts conducted in 2001 surprisingly revealed that 52% had some atherosclerosis, 85% of those older than 50 also had this condition, including 17% of teenagers. No one showed symptoms, and a very insignificant proportion of them had severe narrowing in any arteries. This was a very early disease which could only be detected by special tests. In fact, anyone who is up to 40 years of age and is apparently healthy has about a 50% chance of coming down with atherosclerosis in their lifetime. The risk increases with age and majority of adults who are older than 60 have some atherosclerosis but often do not show obvious symptoms. Atherosclerosis can begin in the late teens, but it generally takes decades to cause symptoms, and as the narrowing of the artery becomes severe, it can impede blood flow and cause pain. Some people usually experience rapidly advancing atherosclerosis in their thirties and some others during their fifties or sixties. However, the rates of death from atherosclerosis have fallen by 25% in the past three decades and this is attributed to better lifestyles and improved treatment options. 
                                  ETIOLOGY OF ARTERIOSCLEROSIS
Atherosclerosis is complicated. Its exact cause is not yet known, but it is thought to be caused by a response to damage to the endothelium resulting from high cholesterol level, high blood pressure, and cigarette smoking. Therefore, a person who has all the three risk factors is eight times more likely to have atherosclerosis more than a person who has none of the risk factors.

The prominent cause of arteriosclerosis is the adoption of an unhealthy diet. A diet that essentially contains saturated and hydrogenated fat, in addition to processed and refined food, can potentially cause arteriosclerosis.

 Other major risk factors that can predisposes people to arteriosclerosis are unhealthy blood cholesterol levels (this includes high LDL cholesterol commonly referred to as "bad" cholesterol, and low HDL cholesterol which is referred to as "good" cholesterol) others are:

  • age, 
  • high blood pressure, 
  • diabetes, 
  • obesity, 
  • absence of physical activity, 
  • smoking and other sources of tobacco,
  •  insulin resistance, 
  • inflammation resulting from diseases such as arthritis, infections, or inflammation of unknown cause, 
  • family history of arterial disease, 
  • addictions to sugar, coca cola, and caffeine in the diet, 
  • lack of sunshine (vitamin D is highly protective against arterial disease), 
  • industrial pollution (which is now a significant cause of arteriosclerosis), and 
  • western diet (which contains high amount of refined carbohydrates, dairy products, and is deficient in micronutrient and polluted by food additives and pesticides).

Tags: what is arteriosclerosis? What is atherosclerosis? How does arteriosclerosis occur? How does atherosclerosis? Prevalence of arteriosclerosis. Risk of atherosclerosis in the young. Arteriosclerosis risk increases with age. Atherosclerotic heart disease conditions. Etiology of arteriosclerosis. Cause of arteriosclerosis



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