Atherosclerosis: How to reduce risk?

Atherosclerosis can be a fatal condition. The most effective way to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis becoming fatal is to have frequent health check-ups.

“The best way to counter the degenerative effects of atherosclerosis is through early detection,” said Dr Aaron Wong, Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Cardiology, National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), a member of the SingHealth group.

“To keep heart disease at bay, adopt a healthy lifestyle. This includes regular exercise, a healthy diet, not smoking, and maintaining a normal weight. This will not only protect against heart disease, but also prevents a host of other health problems,” said Dr Wong.

Atherosclerosis in other parts of the body

Atherosclerosis can occur not just in the heart, but also in any artery in the body.

Peripheral arteries

These are arteries in the arms and legs. Blockages in leg arteries may cause pain in the legs when walking. If the pain is bearable, the doctor may advise the patient to keep on walking through the pain, to encourage the body’s coping mechanism to build capillaries around the blockage. Limb artery blockages cause poor healing of wounds in patients with diabetes, and opening up such arteries with stents or surgery may prevent limbs from being amputated.

Carotid arteries

The carotid arteries, which are located along the sides of the neck, supply oxygen to the brain. When blockages develop in these arteries, a stroke may occur. A blockage here can sometimes be detected by putting a stethoscope to a carotid artery to listen for a whistling sound with every heart pulsation.

Renal arteries

Atherosclerosis in these arteries, which supply blood to the kidneys, causes a gradual loss of kidney function. It can lead to uncontrolled high blood pressure and kidney failure.

See previous pages to learn more about atherosclerosis.

Ref: R14