To keep our hearts healthy, we must keep the blood vessels that flow in and out of them free of blockage. That can be challenging. The main problem is that clogged arteries, called either “atherosclerosis” or “ateriosclerosis,” is a symptom-less disease that you can’t see coming. Or maybe you can after all?
The walls of your arteries are critical to the proper flow of blood, and if they become thickened, hardened or lose their elasticity, it is a major problem. The disease progresses slowly, building up over the years. What happens is that the artery wall weakens and cholesterol, calcium, fats and ?lipoproteins? start building up inside them — as they grow and the artery hardens, it reduces blood flow. One of the greatest threats is having high cholesterol. When it gets bad enough, the end result can be a stroke, cardiac arrest or heart disease.
Researchers have found that people who are at high risk of heart disease, who have atherosclerosis, need to see the problem to change it. Because there are no symptoms for so long, people think everything’s okay and don’t care about clogged arteries. But actually showing them the deposits building up can make them 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 that lights up calcium deposits as bright white areas in the coronary arteries. And then illustrates them on a computer monitor.
Sure enough, people get sparked into action by what they see. Statin drugs are used to reduce cholesterol counts, but are not prescribed as much as many experts believe for those who are at-risk with artery problems. That said, among the patients in the study with the lowest amount of calcium build-up (those white dots), 52% agreed to start a regimen of statin drugs. Then, among those with the most calcium build-up in their blood vessels, 91% wanted statin treatment. Of course, eating healthy is another big way to help the situation, and 64% of people with the most calcium build-up agreed to immediately change their habits.
Nothing like seeing the problem firsthand, is there? Getting a glimpse inside your body can illustrate a health risk where there are no symptoms 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.