About one in three adults in the U. S. have. More than 90% of adults who survive into their 80s will develop elevated
— also called hypertension — and about 50% of people will have it by age 60. Although is common, it\’s not harmless. is a major cause of, the artery-clogging process that leads to and strokes. Blood pressure higher than 130/80 is seen in: 69% of people who have their first 77% of people who have their first 74% of people who have usually has no symptoms, even if it is severely elevated. Only 35% of people with high blood pressure have it under control. If you\’re one of the millions of people with uncontrolled hypertension, your may be paying the price. Blood pressure is the pressure inside the arteries. It\’s reported in two numbers; for example, \”125 over 80. \” What do these numbers mean? The top number is the systolic pressure. This is the peak pressure, when the pumps and expands the arteries. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure. When the relaxes, the pressure in the arteries falls to this value. Normal blood pressure is less than 120 over less than 80. Treatment is recommended for blood pressure above 130 over 80 for most people. Treatment may be considered at lower levels, depending on other medical conditions you may have. When the heart beats, it pushes blood through the arteries in your entire body. Higher blood pressures mean that with each beat, arteries throughout the body swell and stretch more than they would normally. This can injure the endothelium, the delicate lining of all arteries, causing arteries to become stiffer over time.
Healthy endothelium actively works to prevent — also called hardening of the arteries — from developing. Injured endothelium, on the other hand, allows more \”bad\” and white blood cells to enter the lining of the artery. The and cells build up in the artery wall, eventually forming the plaque of atherosclerosis. Plaque is dangerous. Although it often grows without symptoms for years, plaque can suddenly rupture, forming a that blocks the artery, which keeps oxygen from getting to the heart muscle or the. The result can be a or. How Is Atherosclerosis Diagnosed? Atherosclerosis isn\’t usually diagnosed until a person complains of chest pain. At this point, the doctor may conduct tests to evaluate your. These tests include: (EKG or ECG): This test measures the electrical activity, rate, and rhythm of your heartbeat via electrodes attached to your arms, legs, and chest. This test may show if you\’ve had a heart attack in the past or if you are currently having a heart attack, strain, or thickening of the heart muscle. Other than providing a snapshot of the function of your hearts electrical system, the EKG can only indirectly point to other heart problems. It cannot predict your future risk. : During this test, you on a stationary bicycle or treadmill to increase your and while EKG readings are taken. This test is often performed with imaging techniques, such as an or nuclear scans, to provide better detection of. If artery blockages are present, the EKG, and/or nuclear scan will show the characteristic abnormalities, enabling your doctor to making the diagnosis of coronary artery disease.
All of these tests are indirect; your arteries are not actually visualized during these evaluations. Because only advanced narrowing of the arteries lead to stress test abnormalities, a normal result, though reassuring and associated with a favorable prognosis in the near term, does NOT mean you dont have ANY plaque deposits. Its still important to control any heart disease risk factors you may have. : During this procedure, a catheter — a small flexible tube — is inserted into an artery and guided up to the coronary arteries, at which point dye is injected through the tube and observed as it flows inside those arteries. This allows the doctor an opportunity to directly locate and measure any blockages in the coronary arteries. During a, a cardiologist may also be able to open up any detected with a procedure called an. This may also involve expanding a small tube, called a, inside the blood vessel to better prop the artery open. Echocardiogram: This test uses waves to provide pictures of the heart\’s valves and chambers, giving information about chamber size and wall thickness and how blood is flowing within the chambers. Because this is such a safe, comprehensive and readily available evaluation, the echocardiogram is often used as the first test (after an EKG) to look for evidence of underlying heart problems. The coronary arteries are not seen during an echocardiogram, so unless a heart attack has already affected the heart, the presence of blockages cannot be made or excluded based upon this test alone.
Carotid ultrasound: This test uses ultrasound waves to provide pictures of blood flow in the arteries of the neck. Because atherosclerosis affects arteries in general, detecting blockages in the neck arteries suggests that it is highly likely that blockages are present in other parts of the circulatory system (including the coronary arteries). Computed tomography (CT) scan: An X-ray and a computer are used to construct a cross-sectional image of the heart. This can provide information about the presence of in heart arteries (an indication of underlying atherosclerosis). Some CT scanners are also able to provide much more detailed pictures of the heart arteries, yielding information similar to that obtained from a coronary. Magnetic resonance ( ): This test provides images of blood vessels to show where they may be blocked. In general, this is used to look at larger arteries (those of the neck or other parts of the body) rather than the small arteries supplying blood to the heart. What Is the Treatment for Atherosclerosis? In general, the treatment for atherosclerosis includes making changes to diet, increasing, and often using to reduce blood. Other treatments may include and stenting for severe blockages. In some cases, open heart (bypass) surgery may even be required. Your doctor may prescribe drugs to reduce and the risk of atherosclerosis. High include, and/or alpha blockers. Y 2015 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.