The human body relies on arteries to carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the entire body. When these arteries are healthy, they are strong, elastic and flexible, supporting the pressure of the blood that flows through them. When not taken care of or as a person ages, these arteries can harden and thicken, reducing blood flow to various organs of the body. This process is known as arteriosclerosis. Many things can cause the arteries to harden or restrict blood flow: atherosclerosis is one of the causes.
Any condition which causes hardening of the arteries is defined as arteriosclerosis. This is a serious condition which may lead to high blood pressure. When the arteries harden, they lose their elasticity, preventing them from moving as the blood pulses through them. This causes a buildup of blood as it tries to flow through the arteries, leading to high blood pressure. It's much like a hose that has been kinked. The water pushes even harder against the kink, trying to force it's way through. Over long periods, high blood pressure causes a breakdown of the arteries in the body and may cause the heart to become overworked, leading to serious health problems.
Atherosclerosis is a type of arteriosclerosis caused by the buildup of plaque. Plaque is made up of tiny particles of fat, cholesterol, waste material from cellular functions, fibrin and calcium. These particles travel through the blood system, causing buildup on the interior walls of the arteries. As it continues to build up it makes the walls thick, narrowing the passageway through which the blood can travel. This, in turn, causes the blood pressure to rise and may lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Effects of arteriosclerosis
Any artery in the body is subject to arteriosclerosis, resulting in various health problems. Depending on which arteries are having difficulties a person may experience numbness or cold spots, cramping after minimal exercise, dizziness or fainting spells, partial paralysis on one side of the body or kidney failure.
The difference between arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis is dependent on what is causing the hardening of the arteries. If it's caused by plaque, it's defines as atherosclerosis. Otherwise, it's simply arteriosclerosis. The two terms are incorrectly used interchangeably. A person can have arteriosclerosis without having atherosclerosis. However, if a person has been diagnosed with atherosclerosis, he also has arteriosclerosis.
Any disease that affects the circulatory system can be dangerous. While there's never any guarantee of completely avoiding a health problem, there are several things a person can do to try to prevent either arteriosclerosis or atherosclerosis. Diet and exercise are crucial to lowering the amount of particles that may build up. These two things may also help maintain a healthy weight, further reducing the amount of pressure on the arteries. Not smoking and drinking in moderation or not at all help reduce the the chances of arterial damage, as well. Making healthy life choices helps a body age well over time, reducing the chances of age-related damage to the circulatory system.