Plaque and Heart Health: Are You in Danger?
Most of us can tell when our bodies are getting sick or when something doesnt feel quite right. But what about the things we cant see or feel that are making our bodies sick? Arterial plaque is a common cause of atherosclerosis and heart disease, the leading killer of men and women each year in America. And whats worse, plaque develops more quickly as our bodys age.
Plaque is composed of fatty substances, cholesterol, and calcium. This dangerous material builds up on the arterial walls of the body, slowly impeding oxygen-rich blood flow throughout the body. Over time, plaque build-up can lead to atherosclerosis, a disease that slowly causes the arterial walls to harden and narrow. Atherosclerosis can affect any artery in the body, but most frequently targets those feeding the heart, brain, legs, pelvis, arms, and kidneys.
As the arterial walls narrow and harden, blood flow to vital organs, namely the heart, is restricted. Without a steady supply of blood and oxygen, the heart becomes crippled and more vulnerable to complications. Over time, impaired blood flow to the heart and arterial damage can result in coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease. In some cases, an accumulation of plaque can break off and travel through the blood stream as a clot, resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
The risk of developing atherosclerosis and heart disease can be reduced by maintaining awareness of the risk factors associated with both diseases, having a full family medical history, and regularly screening your health. Making healthy lifestyle decisions such as exercising regularly and reducing your intake in cholesterol will also strengthen your heart and lower the possibility of developing plaque.