Atherosclerosis Treated at The Heart Center at Mercy


Atherosclerosis is a disease in which fatty material, called plaque, can build up in the arteries and block the flow of blood. Atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries of the heart can cause a heart attack.

The cardiac specialists at The Heart Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, are skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of atherosclerosis. Our doctors will work with you to determine the best course of treatment and will help you to understand how to modify your lifestyle to maintain a healthy heart.

About the Condition

Atherosclerosis is an abnormal condition in which fats, calcium and cell waste products form deposits (plaques or atheromas) on the inner walls of arteries. It is a type of arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, where artery walls become thick and lose the ability to stretch. Plaque formation narrows arteries and can decrease or completely block blood flow. When atherosclerosis affects the arteries of the heart, it’s called coronary artery disease.

Risk factors for atherosclerosis include:

  • Unhealthy diet
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Lack of regular exercise
  • Family history of atherosclerosis or dyslipidemia
  • High blood pressure
  • Certain conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism or polycystic ovary syndrome
NEXT: Symptoms & Diagnostic Process ›
Symptoms & Diagnostic Process

Atherosclerosis develops gradually over many years, sometimes even beginning in childhood. Usually there are not symptoms until later in life when it is well advanced and causing complications in different parts of the body. Some of these complications may include:

  • Heart: chest pain, shortness of breath
  • Legs or arms: pain (intermittent claudication)
  • Kidneys: high blood pressure
  • Male genitals: erectile dysfunction
  • Brain: mini-stroke (TIA) or stroke

Blood cholesterol tests can reveal whether total cholesterol levels are abnormal (dyslipidemia). Other tests may be performed as needed to identify the exact nature and location of complications.

NEXT: Treatment Options ›
Treatment Options

Untreated atherosclerosis can lead to coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease and stroke.

Treatment is aimed at returning blood cholesterol levels to the normal range through a combination of medications and lifestyle adjustments.

Medications may include:

  • Statins (HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors)
  • Resins (bile acid sequestrants)
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors)
  • Fibrates (fibric acid derivatives)
  • Niacin (B vitamin)

Lifestyle adjustments may include:

  • Stop smoking
  • Moderate exercise plan
  • Heart-healthy diet
  • Strategies for stress management

Other treatments will be determined by any complications of atherosclerosis that are found.

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