Sunday, December 11, 2005


arteries, hardening of; See ARTERIOSCLEROSIS.

arteriosclerosis - Arteriosclerosis is the thickening and loss of the elasticity of the arteries. Mineral and fatty deposits collect on the inner lining of arteries (plaque). This plaque encroaches on the passageway and gradually obstructs the flow of blood. The exact cause of arteriosclerosis is not known. However, several factors contribute to the age of onset and the severity of the disease. These factors include heredity,  alterations in the sex hormones, diabetes, hypertension, gout, obesity, smoking, and a diet high in cholesterol and fats. Arteriosclerosis is frequently the cause of other diseases, including ANEURYSM, ANGINA, MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION, THROMBOSIS, cerebrovascular disease, and decreased hearing and vision.
Symptoms of generalized arteriosclerosis include coldness or numbness of the feet, dizziness, shortness of breath, headache, fatigue, leg cramps, and loss of memory. Recent reports indicate that certain drugs combined with a low-fat diet and exercise can lower blood cholesterol levels and help prevent the artery clogging plaque. Some individuals so treated demonstrate a shrinkage of the artery-choking deposit. Chronic reduction of circulation may be ameliorated by vascular surgery and replacement of the diseased arterial segment. In severe arteriosclerosis the affected extremity may develop gangrene. In these cases amputation may be necessary.
Vasodilator medications may be prescribed, although these are of help only for increased skin circulation. Most treatment concentrates on preventing the condition from becoming worse. The person with arteriosclerosis should stop or greatly curtail smoking, control weight, and treat and control any disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or gout, that accentuates arteriosclerotic changes. The person should follow a diet low in cholesterol and fats and should participate in a regular exercise program, such as walking or bicycling. Stress reduction through relaxation therapy or other means may also be helpful.
Ross, R. "The Pathogenesis of Atherosclerosis." New Engl. J. Med. 314: 488, 1986.
Schaefer, E. J., and Levy, R. I. "Pathogenesis and Management of Lipoprotein Disorders." New Engl. J. Med. 312: 1300, 1985.
Steinberg, F. D.: Care of the Geriatric Patient, 6th ed. St. Louis: C. V. Mosby Co., 1983.


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