ATHEROSCLEROSIS IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF SEVERAL OF THE “SILENT KILLER DISEASES OF MODERN CIVILIZATION”
“CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE” IS DUE TO ATHEROSCLEROSIS, AND IT IS THE NUMBER ONE CAUSE OF DEATH TODAY IN THE MODERN WORLD.
- STROKES AND CEREBRAL VASCULAR ACCIDENTS ARE DUE IN GENERAL TO ATHEROSCLEROSIS.
- ABDOMINAL AORTIC ANEURYSM IS DUE TO ATHEROSCLEROSIS.
- BLOCKAGES IN THE LEGS AND ARMS ARE DUE TO ATHEROSCLEROSIS.
- BLOCKAGES IN THE RENAL ARTERIES ARE ALSO DUE TO ATHEROSCLEROSIS.
Arterial hypertension, diabetes and elevated cholesterol may lead to atherosclerosis.
Blood testing of cholesterol by the so called lipid panel for evaluation of high density lipoprotein (the good cholesterol) and low density lipoprotein (the bad cholesterol) may not be enough. Evaluation of the cholesterol family is just one aspect of the detection of atherosclerosis. Testing of the carotid arteries, abdominal aorta, and leg circulation by duplex can provide your attending physician with direct visualization of the condition of your arteries. In fact, the findings may be totally normal or varying stages of atherosclerosis can be seen.
In the early stages sonography of the carotid arteries, abdominal aorta and lower extremities, may find only increased thickness of the “intima”. The “intima” is a specialized tissue of unique property. When the blood touches the “intima” it does not coagulate, therefore guaranteeing that your blood remains liquid and prevents blood clots from forming in your arteries and veins.
By the process of aging and oxidation this extraordinary property of the “intima” progressively disappears and atherosclerosis and blood clots become way more significant, develop faster and in this way lead to the occlusion of the veins or arteries.
The first stages of atherosclerosis usually occur in a very subtle way. Smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, gout, and arterial hypertension accelerate the process of atherosclerosis and put the patient at risk of faster developing this life threatening disease. All of these conditions accelerate oxidation of the intima and
promote plaque and blood clots in the arteries and veins.
The first abnormality encountered in many individuals is increased thickness of the intima. This can clearly be seen by ultrasound and is indicative of an early stage disease process.
In a second stage, mild soft plaque usually deposited by cholesterol and other lipids develops. This plaque is typically not that occlusive in the artery (usually less than 25% sub-occlusive).
The third stage is when the plaque becomes complex and scar tissue develops and sometimes small deposits of blood clots add up to the plaque itself. Calcium sometimes is also seen in the plaque at this stage.
The fourth stage is when the plaque is more than 70% sub-occlusive and impairment of the normal circulation to the organs is compromised (plaque occlusive more than 75% reduces the blood flow and compromises circulation).
In further stages plaque ulceration can be the source of microembolization by minute blood clots to different organs and the brain, so common in the elderly and in the adult population today.
It is in this last stage that symptoms develop. This is why it is so important to determine the presence of plaque before symptoms develop (i.e. heart attack or stroke).
In modern medicine we must not wait for symptoms to develop as symptoms usually are expressions of an advanced development in the disease where medical intervention is too late to be effective and sometimes only surgery can help.
If atherosclerosis is diagnosed before it reaches the critical stage, diet, behavior modification and other preventive medicines can typically slow down or even reverse the course of the disease progression.
The most comprehensive way to test for atherosclerosis:
1. Testing the so called lipid panel or cholesterol family including cholesterol LDL (low density lipoprotein), HDL (the good cholesterol), etc. and now, in some cases, with the most modern test done at our MHS Medical Laboratory: “NMR Lipoprotein Profile.”
2. The visualization of the arteries themselves by Sonography and Duplex testing of the carotid arteries, abdominal aorta, and circulation of the lower extremities and iliac arteries. Ultrasound provides doctors with the most economical tool to see what extent your arteries are affected by atherosclerosis.
3. NMR Lipoprotein Profile by nuclear magnetic is a lab test that can detect those particles of cholesterol that are small enough to penetrate the artery walls. This test should be done in many patients, because some people with normal cholesterol can have small particles and are still at high risk of developing plaque formation and atherosclerosis.
By testing all of the above, a modern, practical, economical and complete scientific evaluation of atherosclerosis can be performed. We recommend you talk these testing options over with your physician today. If so, indicated by your doctor, Med Health Services can perform these tests at any of our outpatient sites.
YOU SHOULD NOT WAIT FOR PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS TO APPEAR, AS THEY ARE AN EXPRESSION OF ADVANCED ATHEROSCLEROTIC DISEASE AND ORGAN COMPROMISE. MODERN MEDICINE MUST DETECT THE STROKE OR HEART ATTACK BEFORE AND NOT AFTER THEY STRIKE YOU.