It’s not uncommon for people to struggle with distinguishing the differences between arteriosclerosis vs. atherosclerosis. Many have heard one of one term but may not have heard of the other. Or, in some cases, people will mistake one for the other. In this article, we’ll discuss the definitions between arteriosclerosis vs. atherosclerosis and share what makes them different from each other. Plus, we’ll share the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment related to atherosclerosis.
What Is Arteriosclerosis?
Although the terms arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis are often used interchangeably, a simple note to remember is that arteriosclerosis is the more general term for when arteries become too thick and stiff.
Normally healthy arteries should be flexible, allowing oxygen and nutrients to be transported to the necessary parts of the body when needed. If arteries begin to harden and the flow is disrupted, the body can experience many different issues. There are a few forms of arteriosclerosis that include:
- Hyaline arteriosclerosis: this condition affects smaller arteries and arterioles (which are smaller branches of arteries)
- Hyperplastic arteriosclerosis: this condition can leave protein deposits alongside your artery walls
- Mönkeberg’s arteriosclerosis: this condition is due to calcium deposits building up and is usually related to getting older
- Nonatheromatous arteriosclerosis: this condition affects the main arteries due to age-related scarring, also known as fibrosis
What Is Atherosclerosis?
While arteriosclerosis is a general term used to describe the narrowing of arteries, the last specific type of arteriosclerosis is atherosclerosis. The main difference with this condition is that it occurs when cholesterol, fatty substances, and plaque build-up inside your arteries and cause them to then narrow.
As mentioned earlier, this narrowing of the arteries can cause many different issues like reduced blood flow due to clogged arteries. Before we discuss the other symptoms, let’s cover arteriosclerosis’ causes and risk factors. After that, we’ll discuss diagnosis, treatment, plus lifestyle changes to help prevent atherosclerosis.
Causes and Risk Factors of Atherosclerosis
What causes atherosclerosis can range between things in your control and out of your control. Despite it being a gradual disease is still important to know the causes. These include:
- Consuming a diet high in saturated fat
- Family history of early heart disease
- Lack of exercise
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Type 1 Diabetes
Symptoms of Atherosclerosis
Symptoms of atherosclerosis can often be overlooked as something that might not be serious. Here are a few to keep an eye on:
- Chest Pain
- Shortness of breath
If you notice these signs, plus have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high amounts of fat, your doctor may recommend getting tested for atherosclerosis.
This is important to test early on because if left unchecked, atherosclerosis may lead to further complications such as:
- Carotid artery disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Coronary arteriosclerosis
- Peripheral artery disease
Diagnosis and Treatment For Atherosclerosis
To avoid atherosclerosis from becoming a bigger problem, proper diagnosis is key. There are different tests doctors may use, such as:
- Cardiac catheterization
- Doppler (for lower limbs)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Ultrasonography exam
If you do discover that you have atherosclerosis, a few medication options may help by lowering cholesterol. These include:
- Antiplatelet medications
- Antihypertensive medications
- Bile acid sequestrants
Besides medication, two other options for helping treat atherosclerosis are angioplasty and bypass surgery.
- Angioplasty involves a surgeon inserting a catheter in your artery with a balloon on one end to help open it up. In some cases, a doctor may use a metal coil called a stent to help prop the arteries and keep them open.
- Bypass surgery requires that a piece of artery from within your leg be added to your heart arterial network. This is to help create healthy arteries that allow blood to flow through.
Lifestyle Changes To Prevent Artherosclerosis
Now that we know the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of atherosclerosis, let’s discuss what lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent it. Simple changes that can help include:
- Eating a healthy diet low in fat, sodium, and sugar
- Drinking less alcohol
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Quitting smoking
- Regular exercise
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Now that you can distinguish between arteriosclerosis vs. atherosclerosis as the simple term and the more specific type, you will be better able to recognize symptoms early on before it develops into a more serious issue.
If you have questions about arteriosclerosis vs. atherosclerosis or any of the conditions discussed here, connecting with a doctor in a discrete setting has never been easier.
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