Treatment and Prevention of Atherosclerosis
The goals of atherosclerosis treatment are the reduction of the amount of cholesterol in blood and restoration of blood circulation in the organ which is supplied by the affected artery. While there are many drugs that can help achieve these goals, drug therapy alone is not enough for the successful treatment of atherosclerosis. Lifestyle and dietary changes are the first lines of defense.
Drugs often help slow the progression of the pathologic disorders. In other cases, the action of the drugs is aimed at the elimination of the atherosclerosis consequences.
Some of the most common classes of medicines used for atherosclerosis treatment include:
- Drugs to reduce the level of cholesterol (statins and fibrates) – the decrease in the low-density lipoproteins (“bad” cholesterol) may slow down, stop or even reduce the accumulation of fatty deposits in the arteries;
- Antiplatelet drugs – they are used to prevent the formation of the thrombi that can block arteries;
- Beta blockers – lower the heart rate and blood pressure. The decrease of the load on the heart often relieves chest pain;
- ACE inhibitors – slow atherosclerosis progression by lowering blood pressure, and have other positive effects on the heart and arteries;
- Calcium channel blockers – lower blood pressure;
- Diuretics – help reduce the major risk factor of atherosclerosis;
- Thrombolytic drugs – dissolve the blood clots inside the artery and, thus, restore the blood flow;
- Other medicines – used for controlling risk factors, for example, diabetes.
Sometimes more aggressive treatment may be required. If a patient has serious symptoms or a blockage of a blood vessel which is dangerous for a muscle or an organ, one of the following methods of surgical intervention may be required:
- Angioplasty and stenting – during this procedure the vessel is dilated with the help of a special balloon and a stent (metal mesh tube) is inserted in order to stop further narrowing of the vessel;
- Coronary artery bypass procedure – the surgeon creates a bypass channel for the blood using other vessels made of a synthetic material;
- Endarterectomy – in some cases fatty deposits can be removed surgically together with some part of the inner wall of the vessel.
Changes in lifestyle that may help prevent or slow down atherosclerosis progression include:
- Smoking cessation. Smoking (active as well as passive) promotes the increase of low-density lipoproteins and decrease high-density lipoproteins, and also causes vasospasm;
- Adequate physical activity. Regular exercises contribute to the more effective use of oxygen by muscles. Physical activity can also improve blood circulation. Exercises help reduce the risk of diabetes and lower blood pressure. Ideally, it is necessary to exercise for at least half an hour several times a week;
- Giving up excess alcohol consumption;
- Healthy diet. It is necessary to have a balanced diet based on fruit, vegetables and cereals. The food with low content of saturated fats, cholesterol and salt can help normalize your weight, blood pressure, the levels of cholesterol and sugar in blood;
- Body weight correction. Overweight causes increased blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol – the main risk factors of atherosclerosis;
- Stress reduction. You should try to be less nervous. Muscle relaxation and deep breathing may help.
And remember that only a healthy lifestyle and the control of cardiac performance will help you live a long and happy life!