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Managing clogged arteries (atherosclerosis)

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Arteries supply blood from the heart to other parts of the body. According to experts, when arteries are in good condition, they allow the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, but clogged arteries block the flow of blood. Dr. Olayide A. Jinadu, Medical Director at Charis-Med Hospital, Lagos, who says the condition is common in Nigeria due to different factors, enlightens on clogged arteries, the causes and how to prevent it. GERALDINE AKUTU reports.

What causes clogged arteries?
CLOGGED arteries, as it is generally known or atherosclerosis is the thickening and blockage of arteries by fatty deposits, derived mainly from our diet. It could affect any part of the body, causing poor blood supply to that part of the body. It could be the heart, the brain, the kidney or any part of the body. There are two major types of blood vessels, namely, arteries and veins.

Arteries are thick walled blood vessels that take blood from the heart to the rest of the body. They usually carry oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body, with the exception of pulmonary and umbilical arteries.

Arteries transport blood at high pressure and speed. Veins are relatively thin-walled blood vessels, which transport blood from the rest of the body to the heart, usually transporting poorly oxygenated blood, with the exception of the pulmonary and umbilical vein.

What causes clogged arteries? 
The causes of atherosclerosis are unknown, but there are multiple factors that contribute to atherosclerotic plaque progression. These include genetic and acquired factors. Processes involved in atherosclerosis include, coagulation, inflammation, lipid (fat) metabolism, intimal injury, and smooth muscle cell proliferation.

Contrary to sound scientific reasoning, the recent belief that consuming cold drinks can cause atherosclerosis is false. This belief has no transaction with the truth.

Who is at risk of developing clogged arteries?
Atherosclerosis is said to be a disease of affluence, very common in developed countries. However, it is very present in today’s Nigeria. This is due to increased sedentary lifestyle. It is very common in obese and overweight people, inactive people, people who consume a lot of food rich in cholesterol, hypertensive and diabetic patients.

What are the symptoms? 
The symptoms would depend on the location of the atherosclerosis. For example, the atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries (arteries that supply blood to the heart) could present as chest pain, which may radiate to the right arm or shoulder tip.

A common complication of atherosclerosis is an embolism (sudden obstruction of arteries by atherosclerotic plaques dislodged from previously existing atherosclerosis). If it is atherosclerosis of the brain, it can result in numbness of a part of the body (right or left). If it is of the kidneys, it could lead to hypertension. If it were in the arms or legs, there would be numbness or pins and needles in the arms or legs

How is it treated?
Its treatment depends on the severity. The cardiologist would request some tests, such as a blood lipid profile and an angiogram to detect the specific artery or arteries affected, amongst other investigations. The cardiologist would determine the best treatment option, either medical or surgical.

How can it be prevented?
Atherosclerosis can be prevented by eating right. It is necessary to eat low-cholesterol diets and regular exercise.

Note that your regular day-to-day seemingly stressful activities do not count as regular exercise. Take a stroll from time to time and limit your driving yourself everywhere.


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