The treatment for atherosclerosis is focused on treating the underlying causes, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Additional treatment for atherosclerosis includes regular exercise, weight loss for those who are overweight, a low fat diet, and a program to quit smoking. Atherosclerosis may result in severe narrowing of the arteries, which can reduce the blood flow to the extremities or vital organs, such as the brain, heart, and kidneys. In these circumstances, angioplasty, a stent, or surgery may be required to restore blood flow.
Treatment for atherosclerosis includes:
- Diabetes treatment
- High blood pressure treatment
- High cholesterol treatment:
- Anticoagulants and blood thinners:
- Platelet inhibitor medications:
- Angioplasty for atherosclerosis:
- Stents for atherosclerosis:
- A hollow tube is placed in the narrowed artery, in order to keep it open.
- Surgery for atherosclerosis:
- Arterial bypass in the extremities
- Coronary artery bypass in the heart
- Carotid endarterectomy
Angioplasty is a procedure that opens an artery that has become narrowed by the effects of atherosclerosis.
During angioplasty, a thin, hollow tube, called a catheter, is threaded into an artery. When the end of the catheter reaches the narrowed part of the artery, a balloon is inflated through the end of the catheter. The balloon pushes against the walls of the artery, opening the narrowed portion.
Usually, a cylindrical cage, called a stent, is placed in the narrowed portion of the artery, in order to hold it open.
During endarterectomy, a catheter is used to deliver additional tools that open the artery and help to restore blood flow. Using tiny blades, lasers or other devices, the tools cut or burn away tissue that is blocking the artery.
A healthy diet for those who have atherosclerosis includes:
- Limit total fat intake to 20 to 25% of your total calories:
- Less than 7% of the day's total calories from saturated fat
- Up to 10% of the day's total calories from polyunsaturated fat
- Up to 20% of the day's total calories from monounsaturated fat
- No more than 200 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day
- Do not overeat. Follow a diet that meets the number of calories recommended by your doctor or dietician.
- No more than 6 grams of salt per day: your doctor may advise you to restrict your intake of salt to 2 grams per day if you have congestive heart failure or high blood pressure
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
- Eat more complex carbohydrates, such as starch and fiber
- Whole grains
- Brown rice
- Do not take iron supplements unless directed to do so by your doctor.
- Avoid fad diets.
- Talk to your doctor about taking B vitamins. Some people may benefit from these supplements.
Medications used to treat atherosclerosis include:
- Platelet inhibitors:
- Blood thinners:
- Reduce cholesterol
- Omega-3-acid ethyl esters (Lovaza)
For more information:
ASVD Questions For Doctor
The following are some important questions to ask before and after the treatment of atherosclerosis.
Questions to ask before treatment:
- What are my treatment options?
- Is surgery an option for me?
- What are the risks associated with treatment?
- Do I need to stay in the hospital?
- How long will I be in the hospital?
- What are the complications I should watch for?
- How long will I be on medication?
- What are the potential side effects of my medication?
- Does my medication interact with nonprescription medicines or supplements?
- Should I take my medication with food?
Questions to ask after treatment:
- Do I need to change my diet?
- Do I need to lose weight?
- Are there any medications or supplements I should avoid?
- When can I resume my normal activities?
- When can I return to work?
- Do I need a special exercise program?
- What else can I do to reduce my risk for coronary artery disease and stroke?
- How often will I need to see my doctor for checkups?
- What local support and other resources are available?
Physicians from the following specialties evaluate and treat atherosclerosis:
Arterial Bypass Surgery
Surgery is used to treat severe cases of atherosclerosis, where the arteries are severely narrowed. The narrowed part of the artery may be replaced with man-made vessel or by-passed, using graft. After the surgery, blood flows around the narrowed portion, which restores normal blood flow to the tissue that is supplied by the artery. Bypass may be performed with one of the patient's own blood vessels or with a man-made vessel.
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