Posted by:

Leslie Dalisay Director at Geometric Medical.

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Look Inside Your Arteries

According to a published report from World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases were one of the leading causes of non-communicable diseases (NCD) deaths in 2008; caused 17 million deaths, or 48% worldwide.

Cardiovascular disease is projected to increase by 6 million through 2030. Behavioural risk factors, including tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy diet, are responsible for about 80% of coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease.

People older than age 50 have an increased risk of developing the disease, and men have a greater risk than women. Other factors that increase your chances of developing the disease include: diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or triglycerides, high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in your blood and weighing over 30 per cent more than your ideal weight.

How Arteries Become Blocked

Your arteries are usually unobstructed and smooth on the inside but, over time, they can become blocked through a process called atherosclerosis, which means hardening of the arteries. As you age, a sticky substance called plaque can build up in the walls of your arteries that harden and narrow it. This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of your body. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances found in the blood.

Atherosclerosis can lead to serious problems including heart attack, stroke, or even death. It can affect any artery in the body, including arteries in the heart, brain, arms, legs, pelvis, and kidneys. As a result, different diseases may develop based on which arteries are affected.

How Atherosclerosis Is Treated

Apart from lifestyle changes, your physician may recommend an open surgery, angioplasty or stenting. Angioplasty and stenting are considered minimal invasive treatments compared to open surgery (with surgical incision). Minimally invasive treatment has been appealing with patients as recovery time for stent grafting is usually shorter than open surgery, may reduce hospital stay and shows lower operative mortality. Moreover, encouraging clinical-based results have increased physician's usage and confidence.

In an angioplasty, a long, thin, flexible tube called catheter is inserted into a small puncture over an artery. The catheter is guided through your arteries to the blocked area. Once in place, a special balloon, which is attached to the catheter, is inflated and deflated several times. The balloon pushes the plaque in your artery against your artery walls, widening the vessel. In some circumstances, a tiny mesh-metal tube, called a stent, may be placed into the narrowed area of your artery to keep it open. The stent remains permanently in your artery. After this procedure, blood flows more freely through you artery.

Watch the following animation, illustrating the scientific and medical process involved in atherosclerosis with the use of stent and balloon.

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