In healthy arteries, oxygen-rich blood is carried by the heart to the rest of the body. When cholesterol and fat from our diet build up in the walls of the arteries, it can form plaques, causing the arteries to narrow or harden and leading to poor blood flow to the organs. This build-up of plaque is called atherosclerosis, and it can lead to atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases (ASCVD).
ASCVD includes a range of diseases such as cerebrovascular disease, coronary heart disease, aortic atherosclerosis, and peripheral artery disease, which develop based on which arteries are affected. Symptoms and complications vary depending on which artery is affected by complications can be serious and even fatal.
Thankfully, managing risk factors can prevent or delay the onset of ASCVD. To reduce the risk of developing ASCVD, routine cholesterol level checks are recommended, along with maintaining a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and avoiding smoking.
If you believe you are at risk or experiencing symptoms, it is important to see a healthcare professional. To diagnose ASCVD, your healthcare professional may perform a physical examination and ask detailed questions about your medical history. Additional tests may also be needed and if you’re diagnosed with ASCVD there are medications and procedures available to help slow or stop the buildup of plaque, or to open blockages in your arteries.
ASCVD is a serious condition that can lead to fatal complications, but it can be prevented or delayed by managing your risk factors. If you are concerned about your risk of developing ASCVD, talk to your healthcare provider about steps you can take to decrease your risk and watch the Alliance’s new video, “Arteries – the Highways of Life. Protecting Them Against Atherosclerosis,” to learn more.