Atherosclerosis: the Silent Killer

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Atherosclerosis: The Silent Killer

Atherosclerosis is one of a group of health problems that define coronary artery disease, oftentimes referred to as heart disease. Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of heart disease in the United States. The following is the definition provided by the American Heart Association:
Atherosclerosis (ath"er-o-skleh-RO'sis) comes from the Greek words athero (meaning gruel or paste) and sclerosis (hardness). It's the name of the process in which deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium and other substances build up in the inner lining of an artery. This buildup is called plaque. It usually affects large and medium-sized arteries. Some hardening of arteries often occurs
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As the atherosclerotic process progresses, blood flows less easily through rigid and narrowed arteries and the blood is more likely to form a thrombosis (clot). This sudden blockage of an artery may lead to a fatal heart attack, a stroke or gangrene of the leg (ASH, 2004). By quitting smoking at anytime, the short-term effects reduce almost immediately. The long-term effects begin to reduce such that in a few years the former smoker may not have a risk for heart disease any greater than the population of those who never smoked.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is another factor in heart disease. It has a number of causes, such as smoking mentioned above. However, other factors, including diet can also contribute to or cause high blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, results from arterial narrowing which in turn causes blood to be pumped with greater force against the arterial walls. Hypertension can be corrected by changes in nutrition (for example, avoiding salt, increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products) and through the use of drug therapy which includes beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and calcium channel blockers (, 2001). The underlying problem with salt is the sodium, a light alkali metal and a strong oxidant. Everyone should limit their intake of sodium to less than 2,400mg per day (NHLBI 1999) but not lower than 500mg per day according