I. Definition: Arteriosclerosis, also known as “hardening of the arteries,” is a vascular condition that can occur in all arteries of the body. It is characterized by a gradual thickening, hardening, and loss of elasticity in the walls of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is a form of arteriosclerosis in which the inner-most layer of the artery is affected. The hardening is due to a build-up on the walls of the arteries, making it difficult for blood to pass through. Complete blockage can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Since the arteries in the feet are the smallest and farthest away from the heart, they are often the first to be affected by vascular conditions like arteriosclerosis. Early symptoms include:
• Pain in the feet or legs (usually during periods of exercise).
• Sores on the foot or toes.
• Lack of a pulse in the affected area.
• Purple color or redness.
II. Cause: As blood passes through the arteries, material containing calcium, cholesterol, and scar tissue builds up on the arterial walls – much like rust and minerals build up on the inside of a water pipe. Eventually, the passageway can become so narrowed that the oxygen-rich blood cannot pass through. A blood clot can form which can completely block blood from flowing through, thereby preventing areas of the body from receiving oxygen. While mild arteriosclerosis is a natural part of the aging process, a number of risk factors are associated with extreme cases:
• Family history of vascular disease
• High levels of blood cholesterol
III. Treatment and Prevention: The main steps of preventing and improving arteriosclerosis involve reducing the risk factors listed above. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly, practicing a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight level, keeping close eye on your cholesterol level, and not smoking. In extreme cases, surgical techniques may be used to clear out, replace, or bypass a blocked artery. While these treatments result in a high degree of success, reoccurrence in either the same or different area is common. To avoid reoccurrence, it is important to maintain a he