Lifestyle changes can improve the health of your arteries. Doctors also
use several types of medications to slow or reverse the effects of
arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis:
Aggressively lowering the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) —
the "bad" cholesterol — in your blood can slow, stop or even reverse
the buildup of plaques. Your doctor can choose from a range of
cholesterol-lowering drugs, including medications known as statins
Your doctor may prescribe anti-platelet medications — such as
aspirin — to reduce the likelihood that platelets will clump at
atherosclerotic sites, form a blood clot and cause further blockage.
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe an anticoagulant, such as
heparin or warfarin (Coumadin) to help "thin" your blood and prevent
clots from forming in your arteries and blocking blood flow.
Blood vessel dilators (vasodilators), such as prostaglandins,
prevent the muscles in the walls of your arteries from tightening
and stop your arteries from narrowing. But these are potent
medications generally used only when other medications don't work.
Your doctor may suggest certain medications to control your risk
factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high homocysteine
levels. He or she may also recommend specific medications for
symptoms, such as intermittent claudication.
If you have severe symptoms, a severe blockage that threatens muscle or
skin tissue survival, or hampered function of one of your organs, you
may be a candidate for one of the following surgeries:
In this procedure, your doctor inserts a long, thin tube (catheter)
into the blocked or narrowed part of your artery. A wire with a
deflated balloon is passed through the catheter to the narrow area.
The balloon is then inflated, compressing the plaques against your
artery walls. A mesh tube (stent) may be left in the artery to help
keep the artery open.
A catheter can also be used to fish out blood clots. This is called
In some cases, it may be necessary to surgically remove plaques from
the walls of a narrowed artery. In this procedure, a surgeon makes
an incision to open your artery, then removes the plaques and closes
Your doctor may create a graft bypass using a vessel from another
part of your body or a tube made of synthetic fabric. This allows
blood to flow around the blocked or narrowed artery. It's most
commonly used to improve blood flow to the legs, but a graft can
also be used to repair a large or leaking aortic aneurysm.
If you have an artery that's blocked by a blood clot, your doctor
may insert a clot-dissolving drug into your artery at the point of
the clot to break it up.
Some of these interventions require angiography — a procedure in which a
small catheter is inserted into your arteries and filled with dye,
allowing your doctor to see narrow spots and blockages with the help of
If the disease affects the arteries of your heart, your doctor may
recommend coronary artery bypass surgery. This can improve blood flow to
your heart and relieve chest pain. If the disease affects the arteries
of your neck, your doctor may recommend carotid artery surgery to remove
buildup of plaques and improve blood flow to your brain.
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