Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease (ASCVD)

Coronary artery disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Coronary heart disease is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the arteries that supply oxygen rich blood to your heart and other vital organs. Over time, this build-up of plaque results in a hardening and narrowing of these arteries. This condition of hardening and narrowing is called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can lead to serious medical problems including heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, or even death.

Healthy arteries are strong and elastic, contracting and relaxing with each heartbeat and maintaining a consistent blood flow enabling blood to move easily through your body. In atherosclerosis plaque builds up inside the arteries. Plaque is composed of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other elements found in the blood.

Over time, the build-up of plaque will harden and narrow your coronary arteries, which limits the flow of oxygen rich blood to your heart, which can cause angina or chest pain. Eventually, an area of plaque can rupture, which can result in plaque contents erupting like a volcano with resulting formation of a blood clot. These blood clots can block the flow of blood through the coronary artery system resulting in a heart attack.

Atherosclerosis is a common health problem. The treatment for atherosclerosis includes changes in lifestyle such as diet and exercise and quitting smoking. The condition also needs to be treated with medication to control blood pressure, blood lipids with cholesterol lowering medication, relief from unusual causes of stress and worry, and getting in shape and keeping weight close to ideal levels.

Symptoms Associated with ASCVD

The symptoms of ASCVD are often times non- existent, but may manifest in several ways such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Fatigue
  • Temporary episodes of difficulty speaking and weakness on one side of the body
  • Poor circulation in the legs with painful walking
  • Pain in the calf muscle or discoloration of feet and toes

Managing ASCVD

Over 80% of the risks associated with atherosclerosis can be avoided by adhering to a few simple principles:

  • Eat a diet low in trans fats and high in fiber-rich fruits and vegetables
  • Stop smoking
  • Exercise daily
  • Monitor your cholesterol and blood pressure