Atherosclerosis - Treatment

Mild cases of atherosclerosis can often be treated with changes in lifestyle. Patients can reduce the amount of fats and cholesterol in their diet, quit smoking, lose weight, and become more physically active. For more serious forms of atherosclerosis, other treatments may be necessary. These include the use of drugs and various forms of surgery.

A class of drugs that is used with atherosclerosis are designed to lower cholesterol. If the amount of cholesterol in the blood is reduced, the chance that plaques will form is also reduced. Aspirin may also be recommended because it tends to cause blood to become thinner.

One form of surgery used with atherosclerosis is angioplasty (pronounced AN-jee-o-PLAS-tee). In angioplasty a catheter tipped with a balloon is inserted into a blood vessel in the patient's thigh or arm. The catheter is then pushed upwards into the artery where a plaque exists. At that point, the balloon is inflated. The balloon pushes on the plaque. It may squeeze the plaque enough to open the artery to its normal size. Blood is then able to again flow through the artery.

Bypass surgery may also be used to treat atherosclerosis. In bypass surgery, the portion of an artery that is blocked by plaque is clamped off. A blood vessel is taken from some other part of the patient's body and inserted just before and just after the section of artery that has been blocked off. Blood is given a new pathway to flow through the body, bypassing the damaged artery. Bypass surgery is completely successful in about 70 percent of all cases and partially successful in another 20 percent.

Alternative Treatment

One focus of alternative treatments for atherosclerosis is diet. Practitioners recommend many of the changes suggested by traditional medicine including reducing the amount of cholesterol and fats eaten. Alternative practitioners also suggest that patients eat more raw and cooked

Flowchart illustrating the progression of atherosclerosis. (Illustration by Hans & Cassady)
Flowchart illustrating the progression of atherosclerosis. (Illustration by
Hans & Cassady

fish and fresh fruits and vegetables. Onion and garlic are particularly recommended.

A variety of herbs is also recommended to improve the patient's overall health. These herbs include hawthorn, ginger, hot red or chili peppers, yarrow, and alfalfa. Another focus of alternative treatments is helping patients to become more relaxed. In this way, they may feel less stress and experience a reduced blood pressure. Yoga, meditation, and massage are methods for improving relaxation.

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