Hardening of the arteries commonly shows its effects first in the legs and feet. The arteries may become narrowed and blood flow decreases, progressing in some cases to total closure (occlusion) of the vessel. The vessel walls become less elastic and cannot dilate to allow greater blood flow when needed (such as during exercise).
Deposits of calcium in the walls of the arteries contribute to the narrowing and stiffness, this calcification may be visible on plain X–rays. It is a common disorder usually affecting men over 50 years of age, and occurring in about 6 out of 1,000 people.
Risk Factors People who fall under any of the following categories lie at an increased risk of developing arteriosclerosis.
- Having a personal or family history of coronary artery.
- Cerebro–vascular disease.
- Diabetes mellitus.
- Kidney disease involving hemodialysis.
- A history of high blood pressure.
- Increased low density lipoprotein levels (LDL).
- Decreased high density lipoprotein levels (HDL).
Symptoms The symptoms caused are mainly related to the decreased blood flow to the heart. These include Angina (a severe, tightening pain in the chest) during activity, or pain in the legs that occurs while walking but stops upon rest. Another indication of Arteriosclerosis is a widening pulse pressure, which means that the Systolic (the top number of a blood pressure reading) pressure is starting to increase. Other symptoms may include impotence due to decreased blood flow in the penis, or blockage of the retinal vein (a vein in the eye), which can eventually result in blindness.