HEART / ARTERY HEALTH, & ATHEROSCLEROSIS FOR DUMMIES PART II: SIGNS OF ARTERY CLOGGING (AKA ATHEROSCLEROSIS)

Vintage American Heart Association Poster Circa 1970s

July 20th, 2019

By Natan Schleider, M.D.

As our arteries clog with cholesterol and get occluded by thick unhealthy walls for high blood pressure, smoking, and other risk factors, most of us feel nothing. Then things hit a tipping point–that is, the arteries which bring oxygen rich blood to our organs and muscles become so narrow that the following examples can happen often quite suddenly:

  • A stroke occurs in our brain resulting in paralysis or weakness or difficulty speaking or seeing (depends on which artery of the brain has stopped feeding the part of the brain responsible for our movements, thoughts, vision, etc)
  • Our hearts suffer damage which patients describe as chest pain/pressure OR can loose so much blood flow so quickly it stops pumping and the patient dies in what is called Sudden Cardiac Death
  • The arteries that feed our kidneys (an organ that requires almost as much oxygen-rich blood as the brain and heart’) clog and the patient suffers leg swelling, electrolyte problems, and ultimately kidney failure
  • The arteries in our legs get clogged resulting in pain or fatigue in the legs with exertion, often relieved by rest

What I want to emphasize is that while atherosclerotic disease can kill quickly and suddenly, it can also leave the patient severely disabled and in pain so if your attitude is: ‘Well, I’ll just enjoy my greasy cheeseburgers ’cause I gotta live and then I’ll keel over and die painlessly,’ you may want to think again.

An excellent example of this is one major risk factor for artery clogging caused hypertension or high blood pressure, know as the “Silent Killer.’ Most of the time people do NOT feel their high blood pressure and it only causes death or serious non-reversible damage. How? High blood pressure causes artery walls to become thick and really stiff. As the walls thicken, less blood flow occurs until, you got it, the lumen of the artery is too small to provide oxygenated blood.

So there are some basic (rather over-simplified) warning signs on atherosclerotic disease.

In Part III we will looks at more specific risk factors for artery clogging.

Thanks for reading!

Natan Schleider, M.D.

‘You’re at risk for artery clogging like a heart attack, stroke, kidney disease. See the plumber.’ Says my General Practitioner.

HEART / ARTERY HEALTH, & ATHEROSCLEROSIS FOR DUMMIES PART I: HISTORY AND CULTURE AND THE SCARY STATISTICS OF ARTERY CLOGGING (AKA ATHEROSCLEROSIS)

By Natan Schleider, M.D.

July 11th, 2019

Vintage Anatomical Print of The Heart

6:00 AM: Opened my weekly pill organizer taking an aspirin, a statin (IE atorvastatin generic for Lipitor), blood pressure medicines, and quickly drank my coffee through a straw (which supposedly prevents teeth staining)

6:15 AM: My 6 year old daughter Ellie wakes up, rubs her eyes, and says ‘Daddy, cereal?’ I pour a bowl of ‘CAN HELP lower CHOLESTEROL‘ Cheerios with Silk Almond milk at 30 calories per serving.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) which includes clogging of arteries to the heart, brain and kidneys namely accounts for approximately 800,000 deaths in the United States (US), or one out of every three deaths. On an average day in America of 2192 die from CVD. Note these number does not include people that just have non fatal events like heart attacks, angina, and strokes that leave you weak or paralyzed.

To keep things in reference 2,977 people were killed on 9/11 while last year 192 Americans died from opiod overdoses during our media frenzied nationwide opiod epidemic.

As far as I’m concerned, every newspaper headline every day should read “Another 2000 Americans Die From Preventable Illness” and no, it was not a zombie invasion!

I love America, greasy fries, a quality cheeseburger, stagnating in my chair playing chess vs a computer that always wins, and salt be it kosher, seasoned, Tajin, or any of the number of gourmet salts celebrity chefs tout on about.

The causes of our nation’s greatest killer are so woven into the fabric of American culture and history that we not only take it for granted but celebrate it. Tobacco was America’s number one economic export before there was a USA and central to George Washington’s wealth and the Revolutionary war. Which American president didn’t pose biting into a McDonalds or Burger King burger?

So I wanted to give you a smorgasbord of background and education before digging into our nationwide epidemic: atherosclerotic disease.

Part II of this article blog will focus on signs, symptoms, and other things most of us do daily (or neglect to do) that causes the clogging.

Thanks for reading!

Natan Schleider, M.D.