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Your Arterial Lifeline

Are you at risk for hidden complications of atherosclerosis?

Diseases Caused by Atherosclerosis: Beyond the Heart continued...

In a transient ischemic attack (TIA), stroke symptoms occur, but then resolve. Most likely, TIAs are caused by blockages that somehow improve spontaneously. TIAs are near-misses, warning that a real stroke could occur at any time.

Half of all strokes are caused by atherosclerosis. Similar to a heart attack, a stroke is a "brain attack." An unstable atherosclerotic plaque ruptures, a blood clot forms, and the artery is blocked. Less commonly, a plaque elsewhere breaks off and travels up an artery into the brain.

Your Legs and Feet

Progressive narrowing of the arteries of the legs leads to peripheral arterial disease. Symptoms are in the muscle groups of the leg (buttock, thigh, or calf) and most often occur with exercise, disappearing with rest. They can occur on one side or both.

"Although some people are incapacitated by the chronic pain caused by peripheral arterial disease, this is rare," says Silverman. "Many people have no symptoms at all, even with significant disease," he adds.

Diseases Caused by Atherosclerosis: Treatment Is All for One, One for All

Atherosclerosis is a many-headed hydra, causing many complications through a single disease process. "If you have any manifestation of atherosclerosis, you are at risk of having the others," emphasizes Mosca.

"The good news is, treating your risk factors for atherosclerosis reduces the risk for all these complications at once," says Silverman.

What can you do?

  • Get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked and treated if high.
  • Exercise several days of the week.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Eat a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat.

Around 90% of the risk of a first heart attack is avoidable by following this plan. And because diseases caused by atherosclerosis are interrelated, says Silverman, "changing these behaviors reduces the risk for the other complications of atherosclerosis as well."

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Reviewed on November 05, 2007

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