Atherosclerosis is a progressive disease that develops as plaque, a sticky substance made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances that circulate in your blood, and build up in your arteries. This buildup causes your arteries to harden and become narrower, reducing blood flow and the supply of oxygen to your cells. Many people don’t even know they have hardened arteries until they have a medical emergency, like a heart attack or a stroke.
Atherosclerosis isn’t a one-size-fits-all disease: The type of artery that’s affected and how plaque develops varies from person to person. Because hardening of the arteries can affect blood flow to your heart, brain, pelvis, legs, arms, kidneys, or intestines, it can lead to the development of a variety of specific conditions, including:
PAD, is a chronic disease that involves hardening of the arteries in your extremities, and most often involves your legs. PAD affects more than 10 million Americans, and although the disease is more common in adults older than 65, it can occur at almost any age. Smoking, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol or triglycerides can increase your risk of developing PAD.
Because PAD puts you at risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or even a limb amputation, treatment is aggressively aimed at preventing complications while slowing or stopping the progression of the disease. This may include:
Mesenteric ischemia refers to the narrowing and hardening of the arteries that carry blood to your stomach, intestines, liver, and colon (your mesenteric organs), which impairs their function and can lead to painful, dangerous blockages. The two main types of this condition are:
Acute mesenteric ischemia
Usually caused by a blood clot, acute mesenteric ischemia comes on suddenly, causing severe stomach pain that’s sometimes accompanied by nausea or vomiting. Treatment is usually emergency surgery to remove the clot and restore blood flow to your intestinal arteries.
Chronic mesenteric ischemia
This condition develops over time, and typically comes with severe stomach pain that can last for as long as two hours after every meal. Minimally invasive endovascular treatments are the first-line approach for most cases of chronic mesenteric ischemia; this typically involves putting a stent in the blocked artery to keep it open.
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