Dangers associated with atherosclerosis
How much atherosclerosis is serious?
• Answer: Heart Attacks: Plaques may ulcerate, causing a break in the protective cap. When this happens, a combination of fibrous and fatty material is released into the blood stream.
Both the liberated fatty material and the ulcerated plaque (sometimes called a lesion) can activate platelets, the body’s clotting cells.
A resulting blood clot or the fatty material itself can lodge in an artery already narrowed by plaque buildup.
If this results in complete obstruction of a coronary artery, the blood flow to the heart muscle itself is stopped and heart muscle tissue will die. This is known as a myocardial infarction (MI), or heart attack.
Congestive Heart Failure: Many people die from their first heart attack, but even if they survive, more than 2/3 do not make a complete recovery.
They are left with some form of disability and a permanently decreased quality of life.
Following a heart attack, the heart is weaker because of lost muscle tissue. When the heart is so damaged that it cannot sufficiently keep the body systems functioning it is referred to as “congestive heart failure.”
In this situation, an affected individual may get short of breath easily, be generally fatigued, experience feet or ankle swelling, or have fluid collect in their lungs.
Strokes: Strokes may also result from atherosclerosis. They are caused by rupture or obstruction (as by a clot) of a blood vessel of the brain Strokes may cause part of the body to be paralyzed, blindness, loss of speech or hearing, and severe personality or memory problems (depending on which part of the brain is damaged).
Aneurysms: The body’s largest artery, the aorta, is commonly affected by atherosclerosis, resulting in aneurysms caused by a weakened lining. If the aorta bursts death is the almost sure result. Massive internal bleeding occurs within a few seconds or minutes.
Kidney Damage: If the renal arteries become affected a person can develop high blood pressure or lose the function of the kidney entirely.
Leg Pain: Leg pain when walking (“intermittent claudication”), limping, impotence and gangrene can result from atherosclerosis in the femoral arteries in the thigh and posterior tibial arteries in the lower leg and ankle.
Gangrene: If the peripheral arteries supplying the legs and arms become narrowed, gangrene can result in blood poisoning and death if amputation is not carried out promptly.