Atherosclerosis Treatment and Prevention: What You Should Know

  • Atherosclerosis is a cardiovascular condition that develops when the arteries become narrowed and hardened due to plaque buildup.

  • This condition can be managed using medications that alleviate symptoms and prevent it from becoming more severe.

  • Preventative strategies for atherosclerosis include following a heart-healthy diet, exercising more, and abstaining from substances like nicotine and alcohol.

  • Regular doctor checkups are vital for early detection and treatment of conditions like atherosclerosis, and they help to prevent serious long-term complications.

Being diagnosed with atherosclerosis can be overwhelming and stressful, especially if you don’t know what kind of treatment to expect.

Understanding atherosclerosis treatments and prevention strategies will help ease your anxiety around this condition.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how atherosclerosis is treated and recommend easy symptom management strategies to help you take control of your cardiovascular health.

What is Atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is a medical condition where the coronary arteries harden and narrow due to plaque buildup, restricting blood flow throughout the body.

The plaque comprises cholesterol, fatty substances, and other cellular waste products.

How Do You Treat Atherosclerosis?

Although atherosclerosis is a chronic condition, it can be managed effectively with proper medical intervention and lifestyle changes.

Medical interventions

The main treatment for atherosclerosis often involves medication to manage symptoms and minimize the risk of complications.

Common prescription drugs recommended by doctors include:

  • Statins and other lipid-lowering medications: These drugs are used to lower the levels of “bad cholesterol” — or low-density lipoproteins (LDL) — to minimize the substances in the blood that can cause plaques to form. Statins are widely prescribed and significantly reduce cardiovascular events.

  • Antihypertensive drugs: Managing high blood pressure is crucial in treating atherosclerosis. Medications such as ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), diuretics, beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers are often recommended.

  • Antiplatelet agents and anticoagulants: Medications like aspirin and clopidogrel can be used to prevent platelets from clumping together, lowering the risk of artery-blocking blood clots.

  • Medications for diabetes management: In diabetic patients, controlling blood sugar is crucial to prevent the progression and severity of atherosclerosis.

Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor may recommend one or more of these medications to help manage your condition.

They will also monitor the effectiveness of the drugs and adjust your dosage as necessary.

Surgical procedures

In advanced or severe cases of atherosclerosis, surgical intervention may be considered. These procedures include:

  • Stent placement (angioplasty): This procedure involves using a thin catheter with a small balloon at the end to access a narrowed or blocked artery. The balloon is inflated to expand the artery, and then a stent — a tiny wire mesh tube — is inserted to keep the artery open. The stent not only maintains the artery's width but also can trap plaque, preventing further buildup.

  • Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG): In this surgery, a blood vessel from another part of the body is grafted to create a bypass around the blocked coronary artery. This reroutes blood flow around the blockage, ensuring uninterrupted supply to major organs and body parts.

  • Endarterectomy: This surgical procedure – commonly performed on the carotid arteries in the neck — involves removing plaque from the artery walls. Through a small incision in the neck, plaque is scraped away from the artery to improve blood flow.

  • Thrombolytic therapy: This is used in emergencies to dissolve a blood clot that is obstructing blood flow. The clot is typically dissolved with medication and in some, less severe cases, these drugs may be taken orally.

It’s important to note that surgical procedures are only considered when medications have failed.

Should you need a procedure, your doctor will explain its risks and benefits to you.

Emerging treatments

Research on atherosclerosis treatments is ongoing, and several promising methods have emerged over the years. These include:

  • Gene therapy: This method is focused on manipulating genes that play a role in artery plaque formation and inflammation to prevent it from happening. If successful, gene therapy can help individuals with a family history of heart disease avoid future medical issues.

  • Regenerative medicine: This treatment option aims to use stem cells to regenerate damaged tissues and arteries, possibly reversing the effects of atherosclerosis. Regenerative medicine may help individuals prevent long-term complications from damaged arteries.

  • Advanced lipid-lowering agents: New drugs that target various aspects of lowering high cholesterol are being studied to determine their effectiveness in preventing atherosclerosis.

  • Immunotherapies: Researchers are investigating vaccines and other immune-based treatments to address atherosclerosis’ inflammatory aspects, in order to prevent long-term complications and arterial damage.

  • Nanotechnology: This technique involves developing microscopic devices that can be used to target and treat plaques in the arteries. If successful, nanotechnology could enable early detection and diagnosis of atherosclerosis, a condition often asymptomatic until severe. Early identification could be a significant breakthrough in managing this disease.

These treatment options are still being tested, and more evidence is needed to determine if these will be effective methods for managing atherosclerosis in the future.

Is it Possible to Prevent Atherosclerosis?

Lifestyle changes

One of the primary strategies for preventing atherosclerosis involves implementing various lifestyle changes. These may include:

  • Following a heart-healthy diet: Consuming food high in saturated and trans fats increases your risk of developing cholesterol issues — one of the primary causes of atherosclerosis. Be sure to follow a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins instead.

  • Regular physical activity: Engaging in regular exercise can help you maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which may reduce your risk of atherosclerosis. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week.

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing atherosclerosis. Following a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, and employing weight management strategies are vital for reducing your risk.

  • Quit smoking and limit alcohol use: Avoiding nicotine products and excessive alcohol, known risk factors for atherosclerosis, can enhance overall well-being and reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Depending on your lifestyle, your doctor may also recommend specific changes you can make to prevent atherosclerosis.

Regular screenings

Early detection and treatment are key when it comes to conditions like atherosclerosis. This means scheduling regular checkups is essential.

These screenings may include:

  • Blood-pressure monitoring

  • Cholesterol checks

  • Diabetes screenings

  • Periodic health examinations

  • Weight monitoring

Taking control of and monitoring your health can help your doctor identify any abnormalities early on.

This will help you get the necessary treatment to prevent any conditions from becoming severe and life-threatening.

Where Can You Learn More About Treating and Managing Conditions Like Atherosclerosis?

If you’re concerned about your symptoms or want to know more about treating atherosclerosis, LifeMD is here to help.

We can connect you to a team of medical professionals who can provide information and guidance on managing your condition while avoiding further complications.

Make an appointment today to get started.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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