Arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)

Atherosclerosis is hardening and narrowing of the arteries that take place over years or decades.that is, the blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart. The narrowing of the arteries causes a reduced blood flow to organs and parts of the body. Despite decades of research, it is still not known exactly why arteriosclerosis develops. It is generally accepted that there is a predisposition to arteriosclerosis and its consequences – heart attack , stroke . It is also known that women in younger years have a natural protection from female sex hormones, which, however, subsides with the onset of menopause .

Inheritance depends on gender

In search of the gene that is responsible for hardening of the arteries, a scientist at the University of Leipzig made an astonishing discovery while doing research on two strains of mice: atherosclerosis can only be inherited from the opposite sex. ” The transmission of the gene that is responsible for arteriosclerosis depends on the gender of the parent generation.
If a male descendant carries this gene, the mother must have carried this gene beforehand. Conversely, a female descendant with this gene requires a corresponding male ancestor, ” says scientist Dr. Teupser. ” So if we want to find out how arteriosclerosis, and thus heart attack or stroke, can be inherited in humans, we have to consider the line of inheritance.

The beginning is creeping and unrecognized

Atherosclerosis does not develop overnight. It can take 20 to 40 years before the first symptoms appear – but by then they are already serious. These include, for example,  circulatory disorders in the legs because the narrowed arteries are poorly supplied with oxygen or a narrowing of the coronary arteries, which leads to angina pectoris . Other symptoms may include deteriorating brain function, such as  memory problems or dizziness .
If the hardening of the arteries progresses, an arterial blockage can lead to a total interruption of the blood supply and thus to a lack of oxygen in an organ. The heart, brain and legs are particularly often affected by arteriosclerotic diseases.

Risk factors for developing arteriosclerosis

Atherosclerosis only becomes a disease through factors that accelerate its natural course. This includes:
1.High blood pressure , because the blood vessels are exposed to greater pressure
Diabetes mellitus
2.Sedentary lifestyle, obesity
3.High fat, unbalanced diet
4.stress
5.Smoking because nicotine narrows blood vessels
6.High uric acid levels
7.Increased fibrinogen level (increased blood clotting)
8.High homocysteine ​​levels
9.Vitamin deficiencies
10.Cholesterol levels too high because cholesterol is deposited in the blood vessels
Patients with these risk factors should see their doctor regularly.

Development of arteriosclerosis

The inside of the vessels is lined with a smooth, thin layer of cells – the intima . If certain damaging influences persist over a long period of time, this lining will develop small cracks. The body’s own defense system is activated and sends its helpers – similar to a wound. But this repair does not work optimally: liquid penetrates the vessel wall, a small swelling occurs and blood cells, fat and lime accumulate.
As a protective reaction, the inner wall of the vessel thickens, a so-called atheroma has developed. The term comes from the Greek and means “flour porridge”, because the resulting thickening looks similar.
Over time, more and more lime is stored at this point and the vessel wall becomes hard. A so-called plaque has arisen. From this point on, one speaks of arteriosclerosis. This narrowing of the blood vessel is not noticeable for a long time, because blood vessels can expand and thus keep the blood flow constant up to a certain limit.

What is happening to the heart?

Such processes also take place in the small arteries that supply nutrients to the heart. There you only notice circulatory disorders when the vessel is only one third open. Then the typical complaints occur with higher loads: shortness of breath and pain in the legs or in the chest.
If the tightness developed very slowly, the blood vessel system can form bypass circuits (so-called collaterals ). The body uses existing blood vessels to continue to supply the heart muscle with blood via this “diversion”. If such bypass circuits are in place, symptoms may be absent despite a blocked vessel in the heart.

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