Arteriosclerosis is a disease process that occurs in arteries throughout the body. Overtime, areas of arteriosclerosis can show large amounts of fat accumulation, often with numerous cholesterol crystals, areas of calcification, and large amounts of fibrous scar tissue.


Hydrogenated oils play a key role in increasing your risk of arteriosclerosis.


The Relationship Between Arteriosclerosis, Heart Attack and Stroke

Vascular disease caused by arteriosclerosis is a process that develops slowly over decades. It is only in the advanced stage of arteriosclerosis that a medical crisis such as a heart attack or a stroke can occur. There are several mechanisms by which a heart attack can occur which include: arterial spasm that can block the artery, a small tear in the wall of the vessel that can cause it to bulge into the space where the blood normally flows, or most commonly, by a clot forming that totally obstructs the lumen, the open portion of the arterial blood vessel.

Many people are familiar with the signs and symptoms of both heart disease and heart attack. Signs of heart disease can be chest pain not related to any injury. This pain may occur with exercise and go away with rest or you can even occur without any exercise and seem to have no obvious logic. Sometimes other symptoms such as shortness of breath, unusual sweating, nausea, and lightheadedness may be present. The difficulty is that symptoms of a heart attack in which heart muscle damage can occur can sometimes be very similar if not identical to angina in which pain but no actual damage to the heart occurs. Often though, signs of a heart attack are much more dramatic with the patient complaining of crushing chest pain, pronounced shortness of breath, and profuse sweating. If you ever experience such symptoms, it's best not to try to diagnose it yourself, even if you are a doctor. If you are uncertain about any chest discomfort, it's best to get it checked out immediately, preferably in an emergency department. With vascular disease, particularly in the heart, a little prevention goes a long way.

The mechanism of stroke is somewhat different than that of a heart attack. In general, blood vessels in the brain that become blocked are obstructed by small clots that come from upstream in the arterial tree. The two most common spots from which these small clots break loose and flow into the brain are first, the branch point where the internal carotid artery separates from the common carotid artery in the upper neck. The second common spot is from arteriosclerosis on the arch of the aorta between the heart and the large vessels that go into the head. Often, the clots will block an artery in the brain for only a short time, on the order of 1-2 hours before they are dissolved by the body's clot dissolving system called fibrinolysis. But the brain is extremely sensitive to any decrease in blood flow. Obstruction of blood flow in the brain for even one or two hours can result in permanent neurologic damage. Signs of a stroke can be any symptom from an extremely subtle change which is very difficult to measure to very sudden, pronounced symptoms with a marked neurologic deficit. Here again, trying to determine if the stroke has happened is an issue to be left to the experts.