Atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries, is one of the most common forms heart disease in the US. This cardiovascular condition occurs as a fatty substance called plaque builds up along the artery walls, and the walls become stiff and less flexible. Bits of plaque can break off, sending clots into the bloodstream that get stuck along the way and block blood flow. Or, a lot of plaque can build up, making it hard for oxygen-rich blood to move through. Both situations can cause a life-threatening heart attack or stroke.
The experienced cardiologists at St. Joseph's Heart & Vascular Institute partner with you to care for your cardiovascular health and well-being. Our team offers only the latest technologies and best practices for comprehensive cardiac care at our facilities.
If you have a heart condition like atherosclerosis in Stockton, CA or a nearby area, Find a Doctor at your nearest Dignity Health location and schedule an appointment. You can also register for one of our heart health classes and events.
What Causes Atherosclerosis?
In atherosclerosis, the lining of the arteries become damaged. This can begin as early as childhood.
Common causes include:
- High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol and other fats in the blood
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Other diseases causing inflammation of the blood vessels, including lupus and arthritis
At first, there are no signs and symptoms of atherosclerosis. Only once the plaque starts to cause problems should you notice symptoms. Your symptoms depend on which organs and arteries are most affected.
For example, reduced blood flow to your heart can cause chest pain (angina). Reduced blood flow to your brain can cause a stroke. You may have vision problems, slurring of speech, and weakness on one side of your body.
Other signs and symptoms of atherosclerosis include:
- Leg pain with activity such as walking
- High blood pressure
- Kidney failure
Atherosclerosis Prevention & Treatment at Dignity Health
Treatment and prevention of atherosclerosis often focus on lifestyle changes. This means:
- Not smoking
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
If these lifestyle changes are not enough to protect your heart health, our cardiologists may recommend medications to:
- Reduce the risk of developing a clot
- Lower your cholesterol
- Lower your blood pressure
For some people, lifestyle changes and medications are not enough to treat the atherosclerosis or stop it from worsening. St. Joseph's Heart & Vascular Institute can provide advanced, award-winning treatment options, including:
- Coronary angioplasty
- Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG)
- Carotid endarterectomy
- Arterial bypass in the leg
You can reduce your risk of developing plaque buildup by making healthy lifestyle changes and following your doctor’s advice to manage existing health conditions.
St. Joseph's Heart & Vascular Institute is a leader in providing care for cardiovascular conditions, such as atherosclerosis, in the Stockton region.