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The Dangers of Atherosclerosis: What You Need to Know

Feb 8, 2022 11:39:52 AM Dr. Scott Sundick, MD, FACS
The Dangers of Atherosclerosis: What You Need to Know

Atherosclerosis is a process that affects the arteries and can lead to heart disease, stroke, leg pain and other serious health problems like amputations. It occurs when plaque builds up inside the arteries, making them narrower and therefore, decreases blood flow to those areas of the bodies. This blog post will discuss the dangers of atherosclerosis and what every person needs to know about this condition.

Causes of Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is the buildup of plaque in the arteries. This plaque is comprised of cholesterol, fatty acids, and other materials. Over time, this plaque can harden and narrow the arteries. The following are some of the main factors that contribute to the development of atherosclerosis:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Inflammation from arthritis, lupus, psoriasis

Symptoms of Atherosclerosis

The symptoms of atherosclerosis can vary depending on the location and severity, though most individuals with mild atherosclerosis won’t have any symptoms. The most common symptoms of moderate to severe atherosclerosis include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort (angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the arms or legs with exertion

Treatments for Atherosclerosis

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for atherosclerosis. The approach that is best for you will depend on your circumstances. The main goal of treatment is to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and limb loss. Treatment may include lifestyle changes, medication, or surgery.

Lifestyle Changes

One of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of atherosclerosis is to make healthy lifestyle changes. This includes eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking.


A healthy diet is essential to help prevent atherosclerosis and other health problems. The following are some tips for eating a healthy diet:

    • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
    • Choose lean protein sources, such as poultry and fish.
    • Avoid saturated and trans fats.
    • Choose whole grains over refined grains.


Exercise is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. It can help improve your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and insulin sensitivity. It can also help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.


Depending on your circumstances, you may need to take medication to manage the problems caused by atherosclerosis. Your doctor will conduct a thorough checkup before prescribing any medication. Medication may include statins, blood pressure medication, and aspirin.


In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat the problems caused by atherosclerosis, if it cannot be managed through lifestyle modification and medication. Depending on where the atherosclerosis is occurring will determine what treatment may be necessary. This may include angioplasty, stenting, or bypass surgery.

The 4 Stages of Atherosclerosis

There are four stages of atherosclerosis:

Stage I: There is a build-up of fatty streaks in the arteries.

Stage II: The fatty streaks become plaques. The plaques may start to block the arteries and restrict blood flow.

Stage III: The plaques become hardened and more widespread. This can lead to serious health problems like heart disease and stroke.

Stage IV: The plaques can completely block the arteries, leading to a heart attack or death.

The Dangers of Atherosclerosis

Over time, atherosclerosis can lead to several serious health problems, including:

Heart Attack

Since atherosclerosis can restrict blood flow to the heart, it is the cause of most heart attacks. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to the heart is suddenly blocked. This can damage the heart muscles and lead to heart failure.


A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is blocked or interrupted. This can lead to permanent damage to the brain and even death.

Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease is a condition that occurs when the arteries in the arms and legs become narrowed and blocked. This can cause pain, numbness and gangrene in the arms and legs.

Erectile Dysfunction

Men with atherosclerosis can experience problems with erectile dysfunction. This is because atherosclerosis can narrow the arteries that supply blood to the penis.

Take Away

Atherosclerosis is a serious condition that can lead to several health problems. It is essential to know the signs and symptoms to seek treatment. Treatment for atherosclerosis may include lifestyle changes, medication, or surgery. By making healthy choices and following your doctor's advice, you can reduce your risk of developing severe complications. Feel free to contact us for more information.


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