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Atherosclerosis Treatment

The goal of atherosclerosis treatment is to slow (or possibly reverse) its progression and prevent serious consequences such as heart attack or stroke. Lifestyle changes and medication can be very effective ways to control risk factors and limit plaque build-up.  More serious cases may require an interventional procedure — using a catheter — or surgery.

Lifestyle

Adopting a healthier lifestyle can help you manage and reduce your risk of problems related to plaque in the blood vessels. Examples include: eating a healthy diet and quitting smoking. Moderate exercise is also recommended, but discuss this with your doctor first.

Medications

There are several types of medications that can help prevent and manage atherosclerosis. You may be prescribed medicine to reduce cholesterol (eg, statins), control blood sugar (eg, anti-diabetic medications) or prevent clots (eg, aspirin).

Procedures & Surgery

If you have a large amount of plaque blocking the blood flow in your arteries, an interventional procedure or surgery may be necessary to clear it. Examples of these procedures/surgeries include:

  • Balloon angioplasty is used to open blocked coronary vessels. During this minimally invasive procedure, a catheter (a long, thin flexible tube) is guided into the blocked artery and a tiny balloon is inflated to clear the way so that blood flow is restored. In some cases, a stent (small mesh tube) is inserted to keep the artery open.
     
  • Atherectomy is a blade or laser that is used in combination with a catheter to clear out plaque build-up in a blood vessel.
     
  • Bypass surgery is a common approach that surgeons use to create new routes through which blood can flow around blocked or narrowed arteries. These “bypasses” are created using healthy vessels taken from the chest, arms or legs. 
     
  • Endarterectomy is a surgical procedure that removes plaque build-up from artery walls. This is most often done in clogged neck arteries (called a carotid endarterectomy).