Heart health

Sunday 06 December 2009, 18:33

Prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis

An overview on preventive and therapeutic strategies to control atherosclerosis

Prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis

The first line of defense against atherosclerosis is a healthy lifestyle. Changes in diet and regular exercise may not only slow the progression of atherosclerosis, but even reverse its course. 


A balanced healthy diet helps to control many risk factors, such as high blood cholesterol and sugar levels, hypertension and obesity. The diet must be rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, with limited cholesterol intake and void of saturated fats. Regular exercise provides many benefits, such as strengthening of heart and lungs, decreasing blood pressure and reducing body fat. Other important lifestyle changes include: quitting smoking, reducing stress and limiting alcohol use.


When diet and exercise alone are not sufficient to address atherosclerosis and its associated life-threatening consequences, medications or surgical procedures are recommended.


There are a variety of medications designed either to treat atherosclerosis risk factors or to prevent or relieve atherosclerosis symptoms. The most common drugs used for slowing – or sometimes even reversing – the progression of atherosclerosis are: cholesterol medications (such as statins and fibrates), that reduce LDL-cholesterol; anti-platelet medications (such as aspirin) and anticoagulants (such as heparin or warfarin), that reduce the risk of thrombi formation; antihypertensive medications (such as beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors and calcium channel blockers), that help to treat high blood pressure.


When atherosclerosis symptoms are severe or when a life-threatening artery blockage occurs, certain surgical procedures are recommended, including angioplasty, endarterectomy, thrombolytic therapy and bypass surgery.


It is important to stress that atherosclerosis is a lifelong condition. Neither medications nor surgical procedures can cure it definitely. They are intended only to reduce risk factors, relieve atheriosclerosis symptoms or treat its life-threatening complications. That’s why it is so vital to take preventive measures as early as possible, by changing daily habits and adopting a healthy lifestyle.


By Chiara De Carli

Category: Heart health

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