James M. Salander, MD, FACS
Vascular Surgery and Varicose Vein Treatment

5513 Connecticut Ave. Suite 210
Washington, DC 20015
Phone: 202-966-1228
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The arteries bring blood to all organs in the body. They deliver oxygen and nutrients, and veins carry away carbon dioxide and waste. Arteries are frequently affected by arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which builds up like rust on the inside of a pipe. This occurs in all of us beginning in our teens and progressing at varying rates and in various locations. It is a systemic disorder and can affect all blood vessels of the body (learn more in English | Spanish). This process is affected by smoking, diet, heredity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stress, age, elevated blood fats, and family history.

As the hardening-of-the-artery material builds up in a local area, it is referred to as plaque. This plaque can impair the flow of blood resulting in Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). Small blood particles (clots) can collect on the roughened, irregular surface and contribute to the narrowing. Additionally, pieces of plaque or small blood clots can break off and go downstream and affect the organ that the artery serves. If the artery goes to the brain, this process can cause a stroke. If the artery goes to the heart, this process can cause a heart attack. All the organs of the body, including the legs and kidneys, can be affected. You cannot completely prevent hardening of the arteries, but you can reduce the rate of build-up of plaque and the progression of the disease. You can also reduce the symptoms and prevent many associated problems.

How can you prevent problems from hardening of the arteries and reduce the symptoms?

  • Become an educated patient
  • Quit smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Control blood pressure
  • Reduce stress
  • Lower blood fats
  • Control diabetes
  • Lose weight
  • Walk regularly for exercise
  • Use medicines as directed by your physician
  • Get regular check-ups - especially if you have carotid artery blockage, or an aneurysm.
  • Contact your doctor at the first sign of problems - do not delay!

What parts of the body can be affected?

Please note:

Problems of hardening of the arteries in the legs, neck, or abdomen should also raise concerns about hardening of the arteries in the heart.

How can the arteries be damaged?

  • Blockage
  • Narrowing (stenosis)
  • Aneurysm (learn more in English | Spanish)
  • PAD - peripheral arterial disease (learn more in English | Spanish)

What are the common symptoms of hardening of the arteries? (learn more in English | Spanish)

  • TIA - transient ischemis attack (mini-stroke)
  • Stroke - permanent or temporary condition
  • Leg pain when walking (claudication)
  • Leg pain at night
  • Pulsating mass in the abdomen
  • Foot or leg sores that do not heal

What might the doctor find when you are examined?

  • Bruits (a noise heard with a stethiscope)
  • Weak or absent pulses
  • Pulsating abdominal/stomach mass

What tests may be ordered?

  • Ultrasound/sonogram
  • MRA - magnetic resonance angiogram
  • MRI - magnetic resonance imaging
  • CT - CAT scan
  • Arteriogram
  • Angiogram

What treatment options are available?

  • Quit smoking
  • Patient education
  • MRA Management of risk factors
  • Medicines: To include aspirin (learn more in English | Spanish)
  • Exercise
  • Dietary changes
  • Endovascular or minimally invasive techniques
  • Angioplasty
  • Stents
  • Surgery