In order to keep your heart healthy, you must keep the blood vessels that run in and out of it free of blockage — and that can be quite the challenge for many people. The main problem is that blocked arteries — called either “atherosclerosis” or “arteriosclerosis” — are an indication of a symptomless disease that you can’t see coming. Or, if a new technique is used, can you?
The walls of your arteries are critical to the proper flow of blood and if they become thickened, hardened, or lose their elasticity, it becomes a major problem. The disease progresses slowly, building up over the years. What happens is the walls of the arteries weaken and cholesterol, calcium, fats, and “lipoproteins” start building up inside them. As the arteries grow, they harden and reduce blood flow as a result. One of the greatest threats against your health is having high cholesterol. When it gets bad enough, the end result can be a stroke, cardiac arrest, and heart disease.
A new study has found that people who are at a high risk of heart disease — who have atherosclerosis — need to be visually stirred into action. Because there are no symptoms for so long, a person thinks that everything’s okay, so he/she doesn’t care about clogged arteries. However, actually showing a person the deposits as they are building up will make him/her more apt to take action.
Researchers wanted to test if visual evidence of a person’s risk for heart disease would affect their behavior and make them change their lifestyle for the better. They used electron beam tomography to do this, which lights up calcium deposits as bright white areas in the coronary arteries and puts them on monitor for the person to see.
Sure enough, people tend to spark into action by what they see. Statin drugs are used to reduce cholesterol counts, but they are not prescribed as often as many experts believe for those who are at risk for artery problems. That being said, among the patients in the study with the lowest amount of calcium buildup (those white dots on the screen), 52% agreed to start a regimen of statin drugs.
So, among those patients in the study with the most calcium buildup in their blood vessels, a whopping 91% wanted statin treatment. Of course, eating healthy is another big way to help the situation, and 64% of people with the most calcium buildup agreed to immediately change their habits.
There’s nothing like seeing the problem firsthand, now is there? Getting a glimpse inside one’s body can patently illustrate a health risk where there are no symptoms in order to stir a person into action. Lowering LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in at-risk individuals is the best way to prevent full-fledged atherosclerosis.